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California AG Revives Backpage.com Lawsuit

Backpage.com Chief Executive Carl Ferrer, along with two controlling shareholders, are facing fresh charges from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who last week filed a lawsuit alleging the online media company engaged in pimping and laundering money.

According to a report in Fortune, the move by the California AG revives a case that got dismissed by a judge earlier in December. Fortune said the new charges against Ferrer and controlling shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin cover 26 counts of money laundering and 13 counts of pimping. There are also charges of conspiracy to engage in the act of pimping. The pimping charges are similar to the ones the judge threw out in the previous case but Fortune said the money laundering charges are new allegations.

In the complaint, the California AG alleges the Backpage.com CEO and two controlling shareholders created several corporate entities so that they could launder money and to get around financial institutions that refused to process its transactions because of the sexual material. The lawsuit also contends the defendants launched additional websites to boost its prostitution-related sales and created content for the websites by using pictures of victims as well as their information without them knowing it. The report noted the case will be followed closely by the tech industry because federal protection for being liable for content posted on websites is seen as necessary for websites including Facebook, Google, eBay, Airbnb and a host of others. That protection has faced backlash from some politicians and lawmakers. Backpage.com has faced a litany of allegations in the past including charges that it facilitates sext trafficking of children. Prosecutors have yet to be successful with any of its actions because of the federal protection over content posted by third parties on websites.

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