UPDATE: U.S. District Court in Washington granted a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of Senate Bill 6251 earlier today, pursuant with Backpage.com's lawsuit. Backpage.com's motion for a preliminary injunction has been set for hearing on Friday, June 15, at 10:30 a.m.
The ruling notes: "Backpage.com has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, as well irreparable harm, the balance of equities tipping strongly in its favor, and injury to the public interest, justifying injunctive relief."
In a lawsuit filed yesterday (posted below), Backpage.com, which is owned by Village Voice Media - the same company that owns Seattle Weekly and 12 other alternative press newspapers across the country - argues that Washington's Senate Bill 6251, set to take effect Thursday, is unconstitutional and violates the federal Communications Decency Act.
The new law is designed to make Backpage institute in-person age verification for its online adult classifieds, something which Seattle Weekly does for print ads of that nature. According to a press release issued by Village Voice Media, the suit seeks a Declaratory Judgment that SB 6251 is invalid, and asks for a Permanent Injunction against enforcement of the law. The press release also indicates Backpage.com has filed a motion that requests enforcement of SB 6251 be prevented pending a court decision on the merits of its challenge to the law.
There are three main aspects of the lawsuit:
First, the suit argues that Washington's new law, while good intentioned, violates the federal Communications Decency Act by seeking to treat online service providers as the "publisher or speaker" of third-party generated content.
Secondly, the suit contends SB 6251 violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by being written in a way that makes it possible for online service providers to violate the law without knowing it, applying to anyone who "causes directly or indirectly" prohibited content to be "published, disseminated or displayed." This, according to the lawsuit, would make online services like Backpage.com and craigslist, along with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, criminally liable for online content, whether they were aware of the content or not.
Finally, the lawsuit argues that SB 6251 violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution by attempting to regulate conduct that occurs wholly outside the state of Washington.
Here's the official Bill Report for SB 6251:
Here's Backpage's lawsuit, filed yesterday:
And here's the temporary restraining order issued today by U.S. District Court in Seattle: