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Former Child Prostitute Sues Village Voice For ‘Aiding & Abetting’ Via Sex Ads

from www.techdirt.com – With so much attention being paid to Craigslist over its “adult services” section, one thing that Craigslist often pointed out was that many other classifieds services allowed much worse — with the Village Voice’s Backpages.com often being used as a prime example.

And while we haven’t heard of state attorneys general getting ready to go after Backpages, apparently a former child who was sold as a prostitute is going to try. The girl, still a minor, going by the name M.A. is suing the Village Voice and specifically claiming that Section 230 of the CDA doesn’t apply:

The “pimp” who sold her via ads on Backpages has already plead guilty to a variety of charges involving prostitution and child pornography (for taking pornographic pictures of M.A. to put on Backpages).

As for getting around Section 230, the lawsuit points out that Section 230 includes an “exemption” for the exploitation of children. Perhaps I’m wrong (Section 230 experts, feel free to chime in), but I’m not sure this is quite true. Section 230 does state that nothing in Section 230 should be construed to “impair the enforcement” of laws related to sexual exploitation of children, but that doesn’t mean that it makes service providers automatically liable if their services are used in that nature. And I don’t see how what Backpages did “impaired the enforcement” of the law so it’s not clear how that exemption really applies here.

Either way, this makes for an interesting test of Section 230 — on a highly emotional issue. No one denies that what happened to M.A. sounds horrific and those involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law (and, it’s certainly good to hear that the main person involved has plead guilty and hopefully won’t be able to do this to others). That it happened at all is horrifying and sickening. But does it make sense to blame a service provider who served as the bulletin board? That may be a bit extreme and risks adding significant liability to anyone who allows any sort of user-generated system.

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