Washington State Supreme Court Rules Against BackPage in Sex Trafficking Case

Seal_of_WashingtonIn a 6-3 decision the state Supreme Court of Washington has ruled that three young girls may proceed with their civil lawsuit against the website BackPage.

According to Justice Steven Gonzalez writing for the majority, “The plaintiffs before us have been the repeated victims of horrific acts committed in the shadows of the law. They brought this suit in part to bring light to some of those shadows: to show how children are bought and sold for sexual services online on Backpage.com in advertisements that, they allege, the defendants help develop.”

The lawsuit alleges that Backpage does more than offer escort services, it provides the purveyors of the sex trade with instructions on how to write ads that generate business. This is the crux of the girls’ case and the argument the Supreme Court agreed with to side with the girls. Federal law shields website operators from state law liability if the site just hosts content that was created by users, the justices said.

“It is important to ascertain whether in fact Backpage designed its posting rules to induce sex trafficking to determine whether Backpage is subject to suit under the CDA,” Gonzalez wrote. A website that helps develop illegal content falls under an exception in the federal law, he explained.

This is another important victory for sex abuse survivors in the last week. Last week, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that our sex abuse cases against the Boy Scouts and Mormon Church may proceed.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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