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Backpage lawyers say 1st Amendment protected their escort ads

Defense attorneys representing the founders of Backpage.com said this week the website's ads for escort services should be protected under the U.S. constitution.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2017 file photo former Backpage.com owners, James Larkin, left, and Michael Lacey wait on Capitol Hill in Washington, to appear at a congressional hearing examining the classified site. Larkin and Lacey are on trial in Arizona on federal charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering in what authorities say was a scheme to knowingly run ads for sexual services. In opening statements on Wednesday Sept, 8, 2021, their lawyers said the site ran legally allowable ads for escort services, but didn’t publish ads for sex. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

PHOENIX — Lawyers defending the founders of Backpage.com against allegations they knowingly ran ads for prostitution say the adult service ads published by their clients were controversial but ultimately protected by the First Amendment.

 Attorneys for Michael Lacey and James Larkin said the site ran legally allowable ads for escort services but didn’t publish ads for sex. 

They say the site beefed up its staff and methods for spotting illegal ads and helped authorities in investigating sexual trafficking cases. 

The founders are currently on trial for criminal charges in Phoenix. 

Last week, a prosecutor said the majority of the site’s revenue came from prostitution ads but the founders and operators of Backpage tried to conceal it.

RELATED: Ex-Backpage owners head to trial over alleged sex ads

RELATED: Sex trafficking survivor speaks out about Backpage.com

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