Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Judge Dismisses Sex Trafficking Suit Against Backpage.com

Judge Dismisses Sex Trafficking Suit Against Backpage.com

MISSOURI—U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas C. Mummert has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Village Voice Media in Sept. 2010 by an unnamed 15-year-old girl who was a victim of sex trafficking through the company's Backpage.com online classified website when she was 14 years old. The woman who pimped the minor out on the site, Latasha Jewell McFarland, pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in December and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The victim held Backpage.com responsible as well, alleging in a four-page complaint that it “had knowledge that: explicit sexual photographs were being posted on its website; that postings on their website were advertisements for prostitution services; that minors were included in these postings for prostitution on its website; that sex trafficking of minors was prolific in the United States of America; and that the internet including their service was being used to advertise illegal sexual services, including child exploitation.” The minor sought $150,000 per alleged violation.

In his dismissal, however, Mummert found that Backpage.com, as an “interactive computer service,” is immune under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for content posted to its site by third parties. The plaintiff made several arguments that attempted to override the immunity, but Mummert found none of them viable.

Indeed, in response to the claim that Backpage should not be immune under § 230 because it "is aware of prior cases of minors being sexually trafficked on its website and based upon the posted ads and photography, no reasonable person could review the postings in the adult categories and deny prostitution was the object of almost each and every ad,” the judge noted a 2007 First Circuit finding that it "is, by now, well established that notice of the unlawful nature of the information provided is not enough to make it the service provider's own speech."

In other words, even if a service provider knows that third parties are posting illegal content, under § 230, the service provider is under no obligation to intervene, and is in fact immunized from being held legally responsible. This immunization held in the earlier Craigslist case as well, in which a sheriff brought suit against the online classified giant for having “the single largest source for prostitution, including child exploitation, in the country.” Regardless of the allegations, § 230 immunized Craigslist, as it does Backpage.com, unless it had created the ads itself.

In conclusion, Judge Mummert wrote, “"Plaintiff artfully and eloquently attempts to phrase her allegations to avoid the reach of (the communications decency act). Those allegations, however, do not distinguish the complained-of actions of Backpage from any other website that posted content that led to an innocent person's injury. Congress has declared such websites to be immune from suits arising from such injuries. It is for Congress to change the policy that gave rise to such immunity."

The Order by Judge Mummert can be accessed here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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MESA, Ariz. — GoDaddy, the Internet's largest registrar, has announced pricing for .XXX domain names. .XXX domains acquired through GoDaddy are priced the following: During the Sunrise A period, .XXX domains through GoDaddy will be priced at $209.99 for the non-refundable application fee and first year of domain name registration. Renewals are $99.99 per year. Sunrise A applicants must have either verifiable trademark rights or are owners of exact matching domains in other TLDs. During Sunrise B, created for non-adult industry intellectual property holders, GoDaddy plans on charging $199.99 for the one-time, non-refundable, non-reversible processing fee that blocks the domain name from .XXX registration for 10 years. Sunrise B allows companies to block their domains in the .XXX sTLD. Pricing for Landrush, where there are no qualification requirements, is at $199.99 for the non-refundable application fee and first year of domain name registration. Renewals are $99.99 per year. Landrush is designed for online adult operators but is not on a first-come, first-served basis and applications for competing names will go to a closed-auction at the end of the period. General Availability pricing for GoDaddy .XXX domain names is $99.99 for the first year of domain name registration, with renewals at $99.99 per year. The domain names for General Availability are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ASACP Contributes to ‘Dreamboard’ Child Porn Takedown

WASHINGTON —  The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) was instrumental in the takedown of the online child abuse fan forum Dreamboard, the organization announced today.

The notorious website, called “a nightmare” by those familiar with it, was the subject of a 20-month long investigation, dubbed Operation Delego, which has resulted in charges against 72 people over their involvement with this site, where users shared images of child sexual abuse equivalent to 16,000 DVDs of content.

“ASACP’s CP Reporting Hotline has received a number of complaints in reference to this heinous website,” ASACP executive director Tim Henning said.

“Once confirmed, these ‘Red Flag’ reports were forwarded to our contacts at the Justice Department and elsewhere, in an effort to spur and further the investigation into this criminal enterprise.”

Henning added, “Rarely do we get to discuss the results of our Red Flag investigations. ASACP is proud of the role it played in putting an end to this living ‘nightmare.’”

According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the website depicted the abuse of infants and young children.

“The members of this criminal network shared a demented dream to create the pre-eminent online community for the promotion of child sexual exploitation,” Holder stated. “But for the children they victimized, this was nothing short of a nightmare.”

U.S. officials are reported to be currently holding at least 43 of those charged in custody; while nine suspects are being held overseas; and a further 20 now being pursued.

Sentences for those convicted of participating in Dreamboard are expected to range from 20 years to life in prison.

ASACP said that since 1996 it has processed more than 600,000 reports of suspected illegal child porn, identifying and quantifying its scope and sources, revealing that the legitimate adult entertainment industry has nothing to do with this material.

Henning said, “Dreamboard illustrates the distinction between lawful companies and criminal enterprises — and underscores the continued importance of ASACP’s mission to protect children on the Internet — a mission which can only continue through the generous support of our sponsors, members and contributors.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

.XXX: Lawley, Duke to Debate at XBIZ EU London Conference

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LOS ANGELES — XBIZ is pleased to announce that it has slated a special .XXX debate session at XBIZ EU featuring ICM Registry CEO Stuart Lawley and Free Speech Coalition's Diane Duke.

The pair will discuss and debate issues relative to ICM's .XXX sponsored top-level domain and its upcoming Sept. 7 launch. The debate is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m.

Lawley, who founded ICM, told XBIZ he plans on discussing the benefits of .XXX domain names, particularly since the debate will be held during the sunrise period when industry members can register their names.

"I am sure the discussion will be lively, and I look forward to making the benefits and new opportunities that .XXX presents crystal clear to the attendees," he said. "With the launch starting on Sept. 7, it is about time we got the chance to publicly debunk the myths and misunderstandings that, in some quarters, surround .XXX, that have been propagated by certain special interest groups leading to unnecessary confusion in the adult webmaster marketplace."

Duke, who leads the adult industry trade group as executive director, told XBIZ that she plans on setting the record straight about .XXX and informing adult businesses about their options now that .XXX domains are rolling out.

"I would like adult businesses to walk away with the understanding that they have options, that they don’t have to give in and throw money at ICM to protect their brand and that purchasing a .XXX TLD could actually do more harm to their business than good," she said.

From Sept. 23-25, XBIZ EU will bring together industry executives from international markets at London’s Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury hotel, for a slate of unparalleled business-networking and deal-making opportunities.

Attendees can also expect three days of cutting-edge educational seminars, engaging technology workshops, special guest keynote presentations designed especially for the European market.

For event information and details, visit XBIZEU.com.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sherriff Hit With Federal Lawsuit

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