FAN 137 (First Amendment News) Backpage.com removes adult content due to government censorship — vows to fight First Amendment battles
Seattle. This from a press release from Backpage.com:
As the direct result of unconstitutional government censorship, Backpage.com has removed its Adult content section from the highly popular classified website, effective immediately. For years, the legal system protecting freedom of speech prevailed, but new government tactics, including pressuring credit card companies to cease doing business with Backpage, have left the company with no other choice but to remove the content in the United States.
As federal appeals court Judge Richard Posner has described, the goal is either to “suffocate” Backpage out of existence or use the awesome powers of the government to force Backpage to follow in the footsteps of Craigslist and abandon its Adult advertising section. Judge Posner described such tactics as “a formula for permitting unauthorized, unregulated, foolproof, lawless government coercion.” [Backpage.com v. Dart, 7th Cir., 2015]
“It’s a sad day for America’s children victimized by prostitution,” said Dr. Lois Lee, Founder and President, Children of the Night, a leading national hotline and shelter program for victims of sex trafficking based in Los Angeles. “Backpage.com was a critical investigative tool depended on by America’s vice detectives and agents in the field to locate and recover missing children and to arrest and successfully prosecute the pimps who prostitute children.” She added, “The ability to search for and track potentially exploited children on a website and have the website bend over backwards to help and cooperate with police the way Backpage did was totally unique. It not only made law enforcement’s job easier, it made them much more effective at rescuing kids and convicting pimps.”
Backpage.com was created thirteen years ago by Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, through their newspaper company, New Times Media, to compete with Craigslist, the nation’s largest online classified ad platform. Larkin and Lacey were pioneers in independent journalism, establishing Village Voice Media in 1970 to provide alternative news coverage of the Vietnam war and later served as editor and publisher of twenty weekly newspapers.
As The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have observed, the Senate subcommittee has engaged in an “invasive, burdensome inquiry into Backpage.com’s editorial practices [that] creates an intense chilling effect, not only for Backpage but for any website operator seeking to define their own editorial viewpoint and moderation procedures for the third-party content they host.” [amicus brief below]
This will not end the fight for online freedom of speech. Backpage.com will continue to pursue its efforts in court to vindicate its First Amendment rights and those of other online platforms for third party expression.
→ Appellants’ Reply Brief, Ferrer v. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (D.C. Cir., oral arguments pending)
→ Lawyers for Backpage.com re Appellants’ Reply Brief:
- Steven R. Ross & Stanley M. Brand (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld)
- Robert D. Luskin, Stephen B. Kinnaird, & Jamie S. Gardner (Paul Hastings)
- Robert Corn-Revere & Ronald London (Davis Wright Tremaine)
→ Amicus Brief on behalf of DKT Liberty Project, Cato Institute & Reason Foundation (supporting Appellant) (counsel: Jessica Ring Amunson & Joshua M. Parker (Jenner & Block))
→ Jessica Ring Amunson, Joshua M. Parker, Ilya Shapiro, & Manuel S. Klausner, Ferrer v. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Cato Institute, Nov. 22, 2016
Cert Petition: Case to Watch
The case is is McKay v. Federspiel in which a cert. petition has just been filed in the Supreme Court. The issues in the case are:
1. Whether a law criminalizing protected speech or conduct implies a threat to prosecute such that a pre-enforcement challenge is proper without any additional showing that enforcement is imminent.
2. Whether, absent extenuating circumstances, there is a constitutional right to make a public recording of courtroom proceedings.
Summary of Facts: the chief judges of Saginaw County, Michigan issued a joint administrative order limiting the use of electronic devices in courtrooms and court-related facilities in the Saginaw County Governmental Center. Robert McKay, a resident of neighboring Tuscola County who states that he wishes to record law enforcement officers’ and judges’ activities inside the Governmental Center, contends that the administrative order violates his federal constitutional rights.
→ Sixth Circuit opinion (here)
→ Lead counsel for Petitioner: John J. Bursch
→ Andy Hoag, Federal judge: Saginaw County cellphone ban not unconstitutional; preliminary injunction denied, Michigan Live, April 18, 2014
Court Denies Cert. in Internet Communications Case
On Monday the Court denied cert in Flytenow, Inc. v. Federal Aviation Administration. One of the issues in the case was: whether the circuit court erred in holding that the Federal Aviation Administration could, consistent with the First Amendment, lawfully discriminate against content-based Internet communications because of the message conveyed and the means chosen by pilots to convey it.
[ht: Art Spitzer]
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