Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday that his office is pushing forward with its investigation of an adult web site whose executives refused to testify before Congress this week about allegations of human trafficking.
Paxton’s strongly-worded admonishment of the Dallas-based adult site Backpage.com comes one day after its executives invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify before Congress about allegations the site edited its adult ads to remove words that indicate sex trafficking.
Backpage removed its “adult content” section on Monday, hours before the Senate released a report that said 70 to 80 percent of the ads are edited to conceal the true intention of the transaction. That came on the same day the Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal from three sex trafficking victims, citing a federal law shielding the site from liability because its role is to host content generated by users. That decision upheld a ruling by a federal appeals court in Boston.
Despite these setbacks, Paxton said his office will continue the investigation “until Backpage.com ceases to be a threat.”
“Profiting at the expense of countless innocent victims by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is unacceptable,” he said. “I commend the efforts of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations against Backpage to stop these types of despicable ads from causing human misery.”
In a separate case last month, a California judge rejected pimping charges against Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, citing federal free speech laws. California officials said they will file more charges based on new evidence.
Last October, Paxton’s office teamed with California officials to arrest Ferrer and raid Backpage’s Dallas headquarters.
California officials have said they intend to pursue new charges against the company based on new evidence.