Sex Trafficking

Why the Government's Legal Assault on Backfired (New Reason Podcast)

Attorney Robert Corn-Revere discusses the failed case against the "world's largest online brothel."


The CEO of the Amsterdam-based—the "world's largest online brothel"—was arrested at the Houston airport on October 6, 2016, charged by the state of California with pimping, conspiracy, pimping of a minor, and attempted pimping of a minor.

Two months later, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman threw out the government's case on the grounds that the law protects online platforms from criminal liability for user-generated content. "Congress has spoken on this matter," Bowman wrote in a preliminary decision citing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). "[A]nd it is for Congress, not this court, to revisit."

The prosector in that case, state's attorney general (and now junior senator from California) Kamala Harris immediately filed new criminal charges against Backpage. Last month, the company decided to close its adult ads section after years of legal harassment.

On today's podcast, our guest is legendary free speech attorney Robert Corn-Revere, who represented The conversation touched on the history of the Communications Decency Act, why Backpage's move to close of its adult ads section has made it more difficult for law enforcement to catch sex traffickers, how Anthony Comstock "set the playbook" for today's censors, and what Trump's election means for the First Amendment. (Note: The conversation was recorded on January 17, before the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.)

Read Elizabeth Nolan Brown's coverage of's legal troubles.

Click below to listen to the conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

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