ST. LOUIS (CN) – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from a girl who claimed the Village Voice Media website served as the gateway for her becoming a prostitute at 14.
Citing precedent and the Communications Decency Act, U.S. District Judge Thomas Mummert found that Village Voice Media dba Backpage.com were not liable for what others post on their websites.
Mummert said the girl had endured “horrific victimization” from her pimp, but wrote that her “allegations, however, do not distinguish the complained-of actions of Backpage from any other website that posted content that led to an innocent person’s injury. Congress has declared such websites to be immune from suits arising from such injuries. It is for Congress to change the policy that gave rise to such immunity.”
The girl, M.A., filed the lawsuit in September 2010, shortly after her pimp Latasha Jewell McFarland pleaded guilty to interstate commerce to promote prostitution. McFarland, 27, was sentenced in December to 5 years in federal prison. McFarland admitted she persuaded the 14-year-old runaway to become a prostitute in 2009, and that she posted nude pictures of M.A. online, bought condoms, arranged the meetings and drove M.A. to hotels.
M.A. claimed that Backpage.com and Village Voice knew that nude photos were being posted on the website in ads for prostitution, including prostitution of minors, but did not investigate suspicions of criminal activity “for fear of what it would learn.”
Backpage.com hosts classified ads for Village Voice publications.
M.A.’s lawyer, Robert Pedroli, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they were “strongly considering an appeal.”