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Backpage.com, LLC v. Hoffman

2013 WL 4502097 (2013)

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Backpage.com, LLC v. Hoffman

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

2013 WL 4502097 (2013)

Facts

Backpage.com (plaintiff) operated a nationwide online classified advertisement service. Although Backpage’s terms of service prohibited advertisements for child sexual exploitation, thousands of such advertisements ended up getting posted anyway. In 2013, New Jersey passed the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act. The act criminalized the publication of any online advertisements directly or implicitly offering commercial sex acts with minors regardless of whether the publisher knew the age of the person depicted in the advertisement. The only way to avoid liability was for a website provider to demand, and keep on record, age verification for all persons depicted in advertisements hosted on their website. Backpage sued the State of New Jersey (defendant) and sought a preliminary injunction, arguing that (1) the New Jersey act was preempted by the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), which stated that providers of interactive internet services, such as website providers, could not be held liable for content published on their platforms by third-party content creators; (2) the act was unconstitutional because it was a content-based speech restriction that was not narrowly tailored; and (3) the act was vague. The state countered, arguing the act was constitutional because it only prohibited advertisements offering illegal services.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cavanaugh, J.)

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