JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has filed a criminal sanctions motion against backpage.com in connection with an investigation into alleged human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors.
According to the Attorney General's Office, the sanctions are due to Backpage's recent guilty pleas that conflict with statements made in previous court proceedings.
As part of a 2017 investigation, the Attorney General's Office alleged Backpage had exploited minors and practiced human trafficking. The company then tried to block the investigation claiming their protected First Amendment rights. However, in recent plea agreements, the company admitted guilt to the attorney general's allegations and to money laundering as well. This led to Hawley's office arguing that Backpage based its lawsuit on false statements.
“Despite Backpage’s efforts to deceive the courts, we now know the truth,” Hawley said in a statement. “My message to them remains the same: there is no First Amendment right to engage in human trafficking."
In the motion against Backpage, Hawley calls for additional criminal penalties and the creation of a restitution fund for the trafficking victims.