AG Hawley to Backpage: There is no First Amendment right to engage in human trafficking

The Missouri Attorney General’s human trafficking initiatives will not be deterred by legal sidestepping.

Jul 12, 2017, 07:54 AM
Jul 12, 2017, 07:52 AM

Jefferson City, Mo.  – Today, Backpage.com sought to block an investigation by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office in federal court. The company filed a lawsuit, which states that they are protected by federal law and the First Amendment from any claims made against them regarding alleged sex-trafficking activity.  

“My message to Backpage is that there is no First Amendment right to engage in human trafficking,” Hawley said. “And this frivolous lawsuit will not deter me from pursuing the eradication of this terrible crime in Missouri.” 

Attorney General Hawley launched an investigation into the company in May using Missouri’s consumer-protection laws. As part of this investigation and the statewide crackdown on human trafficking, Hawley made numerous requests for Backpage.com to produce documents that could be protecting traffickers in Missouri and elsewhere. Backpage has repeatedly refused to turn over these documents. The company denies any involvement in human trafficking activity despite substantial evidence showing otherwise.  

Just today, the Washington Post revealed that a contractor for Backpage.com has been aggressively soliciting and creating sex-related ads. This information comes from a collection of new found documents, including spreadsheets, emails, audio files and employee manuals.  

“The information revealed today by the Washington Post is simply further evidence of legal maneuvering by a company with a completely meritless case,” Hawley said.  

Missouri is not the only state troubled by the company’s activities. For years, elected officials, law enforcement officers, and sex-trafficking victims have raised concerns regarding Backpage.com. Both Texas and California are pursuing the company on criminal grounds. Missouri remains the only state to use consumer-protection law as a means to stop the company.


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