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Montana joins legal action against Backpage.com sex trafficking - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Montana joins legal action against Backpage.com sex trafficking complaint

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(Backpage.com) (Backpage.com)
BILLINGS -

Montana is joining 20 other states in support of the three young sex trafficking victims who recently filed a lawsuit against Backpage.com for allowing them to be promoted for prostitution, the Montana Department of Justice announced Friday.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox on Sept. 30 signed onto an amicus brief, which is a show of support for a case by a party that is not involved in the lawsuit.

Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested Thursday on a federal warrant following allegations that adult and child sex trafficking victims had been forced into prostitution through ads posted on the website.

Ferrer faces charges of pimping a minor and conspiracy to commit pimping, because he allegedly profited off posts that promoted sex trafficking victims for prostitution.

Three young victims are listed as plaintiffs in the case against Backpage.com.

“The internet is the primary method of advertising the availability of children for sex; operators of these websites should not be immune from liability for the serious harm inflicted upon the children they actively exploit,” said Fox in a press release.

The states included in the brief take issue with the broad application of the Communications Decency Act, which protects website operators from liability for posting content generated by third parties.

The CDA was expanded by the First Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent website operators from punishment for publishing third party content and assisting in developing the content.

The brief argues that this expansion protects these operators from charges for allowing advertisements and postings that support human trafficking.

The states involved in the brief are requesting the judgment of the appeals court to be rejected.

In Montana, several recent prostitution cases cite Backpage.com as the way alleged pimps promoted their victims for paid sex in the state.

Terrance Edwards, 34, was recently arrested and charged with promotion of prostitution after Billings police arrested him at a local hotel.

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Billings, prosecutors allege that Edwards posted ads for the women he forced into prostitution on Backpage.com.

Larry Burnell Sept Jr., 44, was sentenced Wednesday to federal prison for pimping two women, one of whom he recruited as a teenager.

When police interviewed the two victims, the women pointed authorities to ads posted by Sept on Backpage.com that advertised them for sex.

Gary Seder, an Internet Crimes Against Children task force agent, said in an earlier interview with Q2 that Backpage.com was one of the primary places he found advertisements for sex with children and women.

In 2014, Montana joined other states in asking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to support the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act to garner more oversight of websites like Backpage.com.

The site advertises a variety of services, but according to the California arrest warrant internal business records show that 99 percent of the site’s revenue came from its adult services section over the past three years.

California authorities said many of the ads on the site include victims of sex trafficking including children under the age of 18.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported 2,900 instances to California authorities since 2012 when suspected child sex trafficking occurred on Backpage.com, according to CBS News. 

It’s unclear how many victims of sex-trafficking have been identified on Backpage.com in Montana.

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