Backpage.com fighting human trafficking charges

Backpage fights back

SAN ANTONIO -- In the battle over a website targeted for sex trafficking, Backpage.com’s lawyers are using the Constitution to defend it.

In between helping families on Thursday, Dottie Laster says that the cries for help are non-stop. 

"These little girls I've been dealing with today, sweet little angels, they weren't brought into this world to have their behinds marketed on a website," said Laster, the president and CEO of the Heidi Search Center.

Her search for the missing in San Antonio often leads her to Backpage.com.

"They don't return undamaged from this," Laster said.

Now, lawyers for Backpage.com are shedding light on why they want charges against Carl Ferrar dropped.

They released court documents citing the First Amendment and Communications Decency Act, which they feel protects free speech online meaning that the website can't be prosecuted for what a third party publishes.

But it's the ads, investigators say, that are being used for sex trafficking.

The criminal complaint revealed that, around August 19, 2014, Backpage.com was paid $12 for an escort ad featuring a minor.

Then, again in September, an ad was sold for just over $20. That ad featured a minor, as well as another from February of 2014, when the website was paid $10 for one.

"Families are going through torture as they are looking for their loved ones," Laster said.

It’s an online nightmare Laster sees played out in San Antonio too often. The Alamo City is home to a crossroads in sex trafficking, with I-10 and I-35 running through the city; two of the main national corridors for modern day slavery.

A part of Backpage.com's defense is their warning online telling users to report illegal activity and human trafficking on their website.

Instead of focusing on the defense, Laster is focusing on change, hoping the impact of the arrest isn't lost.

"I think this is a step in the direction for our society,” she said. “Do we stand for selling sex?”


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