Judge Ties Up Online Sex-Advertising Law
A federal judge preemptively blocked a landmark state law that would have required online companies to verify the ages of people in ads offering “adult services,” which range from thinly veiled ads for prostitution, as well as legal, but kinky, services.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez on Tuesday stopped the Washington state law from taking force this Thursday in a suit brought by Village Voice Media — the operator of Backpage.com. The company claims the measure violates the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
The judge ruled (.pdf) briefly that Backpage “has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim.”
Backpage asserted in its complaint (.pdf) that the law “means that every service provider — no matter where headquartered or operated — must review each and every piece of third-party content posted on or through its service to determine whether it is an ‘implicit’ ad for a commercial sex act in Washington, and whether it includes a depiction of a person, and, if so, must obtain and maintain a record of the person’s ID. These obligations would bring the practice of hosting third-party content to a grinding halt.”