Report Reveals Google Support of Backpage.com
Yesterday a coalition of consumer and anti-trafficking advocates released a report documenting that Google has financially backed the efforts of digital rights groups to defend Backpage.com—a website notorious for facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking—from numerous legal challenges. The report cited evidence that Google and the groups it financially supports have filed a series of amicus briefs on Backpage.com’s behalf, distorting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to defend the company’s actions. The report further documents that Google has deployed a band of lobbyists to stymie efforts to amend the CDA. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) applauds this report for revealing mainstream supporters of sex trafficking.
“There can be no doubt that Backpage’s entire business model is built on sexual exploitation, and that as such, Backpage’s CEO and founders represent America’s top pimps,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “What will come as a shock to many is that Google—a company with the motto ‘Don’t be evil’—has aggressively buttressed the legal defense of Backpage.com in an effort to protect its own corporate interests, according to the report.”
“In a series of court cases favoring Backpage.com, the courts have interpreted Section 230 of the CDA to give third-party hosting sites carte blanche immunity for everything and anything that occurs online. To help ensure Backpage’s legal defense was successful,” Hawkins added, “Google has financed powerful digital rights groups to bolster Backpage’s legal arguments, according to the report. The report also indicates that Google has taken its campaign to Capitol Hill where it has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to oppose efforts to amend the CDA.”
“While the law is important in protecting Internet companies from frivolous lawsuits for content posted by users of those websites, we believe that the Backpage.com case is fundamentally different as evidence suggests that the company proactively coaches sex traffickers about how to post ads for underage victims in order to avoid detection by legal authorities.”
“We believe that reasonable reforms to Section 230 are essential to ensure that companies like Backpage.com can no longer hide behind the safe harbor provisions of the law when they knowingly and with reckless disregard allow sex-trafficking ads to be posted on their site. We call on Google and all Internet companies to recognize that people are not objects to be sold online and to support reasonable reform of Section 230 of the CDA.”
Backpage.com is a member of the 2017 Dirty Dozen List due to its history of facilitating, and profiting from, sexual exploitation. Google’s Youtube is also a member of the 2017 Dirty Dozen list for its failure to address the volumes of sexually explicit videos available on its site.