Friday, August 19, 2011

Federal Court Tosses Teen Prostitute Suit Against Village Voice & Backpage,com

Seal of the United States District Court for t...Image via WikipediaCiting a federal statute that protects Internet service providers from lawsuits concerning content posted on their sites, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Thomas C. Mummert III this week dismissed a lawsuit against Village Voice Media Holdings LLC and brought by a teen-aged prostitute who claimed the defendants knowingly permitted her pimp to advertise her sexual services on their Website.

According to accounts in St. Louis Today and by the Associated Press, the lawsuit sought at least $150,000 in damages against, which accepts adult services ads, for allegedly providing a "safe house" for customers and procurers to arrange child prostitution. The plaintiff in the suit was not identified, but claimed she became a prostitute at age 14. Her 27-year-old pimp last December received a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to using interstate commerce to promote prostitution, according to press accounts.

In dismissing the case, Judge Mummert ruled: "Congress has declared such websites to be immune to suits arising from such injuries. It is for Congress to change the policy that gave rise to such immunity." Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

In September 2010, a joint letter was sent to by attorneys general from 21 states urging the site to stop running adult services ads, which the Website declined to do. (See "TUOL" post 9/23/10.)

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