Backpage | St. Louis Public Radio

Backpage

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley shares evidence included in a motion to dismiss Backpage's lawsuit against him.
File photo I Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A two-year federal investigation of Backpage.com, a website that frequently advertises commercial sex, led Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to introduce legislation Tuesday. The bill, filed with bipartisan support, would make it illegal for websites to "knowingly  facilitate sex trafficking.”

McCaskill said Backpage.com appears to be actively involved in cultivating and publishing ads for minors engaged in commercial sex, a felony. The company's activities are detailed in a growing cadre of evidence released by federal investigators, uncovered in ongoing civil and criminal court cases and published by the Washington Post.

This story was updated at 1:06 p.m. to include comments by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in a phone interview.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley struck back Wednesday at Backpage.com, the controversial classifieds website that sued him the day before, saying “there is no First Amendment right to engage in human trafficking.”

Republican Josh Hawley won the endorsement of the Missouri Farm Bureau for attorney general.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri is the only state in the U.S. using consumer-protection laws to pursue a website that’s accused of advertising illegal sexual activity such as human trafficking, Attorney General Josh Hawley says.

Hawley’s office says it has filed a lawsuit Thursday in state court in St. Charles as a way to try to force Backpage.com to turn over documents that Hawley contends may be helping traffickers evade prosecution in the state and elsewhere. It’s the second time Hawley has sought court intervention in recent weeks.