Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

Backpage.com Succumbing to Government Is Blow to Free Speech Online

WASHINGTON -

Following years of government pressure, Backpage.com today announced that it would shut down the adult section of its website. This development is a direct blow to the freedom of speech we enjoy online. Backpage, like other classified ad platforms before it, has faced a long-running campaign from government officials at every level seeking to force the website to restrict lawful speech as a way to pursue criminal activity by some of the site's users. In virtually every case before a state or federal court, these government censorship efforts have been rejected – often, as violations of the First Amendment.

"This issue is about far more than just one company or one form of speech; it's about protecting the right of all Americans to freely express themselves online and to find platforms for their constitutionally protected speech. This is an important reminder that our online freedoms remain under threat," said Nuala O'Connor, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT). "While the fundamental legal framework protecting free speech remains strong, too often we see government officials attempt to circumvent these protections to achieve their censorship goals."

CDT was founded to help preserve a free and open internet, and participated in the critical cases that established the principle that online speech warrants the highest level of First Amendment protection. Over the years, we have fought back against government actors who seek to censor through pernicious, extralegal methods, including threats, intimidation, and ruinous litigation. As Judge Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, described in Backpage.com v. Dart, these extralegal pressure tactics by the government constitute "a formula for permitting unauthorized, unregulated, foolproof, lawless government coercion."

"The tactics used against sites like Backpage threaten speech far beyond what's posted on online classified ad sites," said Emma Llansó, Director of Free Expression at CDT. "When government officials move beyond the bully pulpit and conduct persistent pressure campaigns to achieve a result repeatedly denied to them in court, we're in the territory of unaccountable government censorship that is anathema to First Amendment values. With government actors at the highest level publicly threatening and bullying journalists and activists, the risks of unchecked extralegal censorship are all too clear."

CDT remains vigilant in protecting the rights of all internet users to express themselves freely online. More information on our efforts is available here.

###

The Center for Democracy and Technology works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·


Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo