With local media under siege, it’s more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our “I Support” program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. expands payments challenging rivals In a statement released on Aug. 30, Lacey and Larkin called the case against them an “epic government overreach,” maintained content on the site was protected by the First Amendment and said the site aided law enforcement whenever when concerns arose about the safety of a woman or child.

It also allowed a news website, like azcentral, to remove obscene or abusive comments under articles without leaving the impression it was endorsing all that remained. In defending the website’s operators, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, attorneys for Backpage have contended that it was immune from prosecution because the Communications Decency Act of 1996 limited liability for websites that posted words or ads written by others. Lacey and Larkin were also arrested in 2007 by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, accused of having published the contents of a grand jury investigation in the New Times. Lawyers for Backpage.com say the men, as website operators, have immunity from consequences related to content posted by users under the federal Communications Decency Act. The ads feature nearly nude photos and use coded language to offer sex for money, according to a declaration justifying the arrests of Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer.

One of the effort’s key backers was then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a member of the U.S. Backpage also proactively sued over laws in three states that sought to hold online advertising platforms accountable for user content, successfully arguing that such laws were unconstitutional and collecting attorneys fees from those states. Starting in 1989, New Times Inc. used “Audiotext”—which combined pay-per-minute 900-numbers with call-in voicemail boxes—to let readers reply directly to personals ads. It would give a huge boost to ad revenues and prove so popular that the company set up its own telephone service. The following year, New Times would successfully challenge restrictions at the University of Arizona, which had declared that the paper could only be distributed at six points around campus and must pay for the privilege. They began with the Phoenix New Times, co-founded by Lacey in 1970 as an anti-war newspaper on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, and would go on to publish papers in 18 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, and St. Louis.

Less than two weeks later, Dominic Lanza, an Arizona-based U.S. attorney who had helped coordinate the raid and whose nomination to a federal judgeship had been languishing since January, was confirmed by a Senate subcommittee that McCain sits on. The feds knew he was on a flight back from Scotland at the time—the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were waiting to handcuff him on the plane once it arrived—because attorneys for both men had made it clear that they would turn themselves in if need be. Instead, a coalition of local cops and federal agents took the splashiest route possible, and the one most likely to ensure that Lacey’s and Larkin’s loved ones would not be spared. The hearing featured John McCain making an appearance “and his wife is sitting the chamber watching,” complains Lacey. Through the McCain Institute, Cindy had been promoting I Am Jane Doe, a documentary about sex trafficking that was intensely critical of Section 230 protections for Backpage.

Meanwhile, the Ruxton Group had grown to represent advertising for 28 weeklies in major markets. For the future it would not be surprising to see New Times acquire more alternative weekly papers in top markets. Although circulation grew and advertising increased, the paper suffered from a high level of debt and was never profitable. At the time it was sold to New Times, the paper had a weekly circulation of 80,000 copies. The acquisition boosted circulation of the New Times chain to more than 500,000, and the company had revenue of more than $35 million in fiscal 1993. Other sex worker resources have also shuttered since the April 2018 passage of FOSTA, Rep. Wagner’s follow-up to the failed SAVE Act.