Yesterday, the Supreme Court delivered a major victory to Senators Portman and McCaskill and their year-long investigation into online sex trafficking. The Court ruled that Backpage and its CEO, Carl Ferrer, must comply with the subpoena submitted by the senators’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) to turn over all documents related to the company’s business practices, particularly how it edits advertisements and screens advertisements for warning signs of sex trafficking. The Court’s ruling follows the Subcommittee’s extensive staff report about Backpage’s conduct, a Portman-led hearing at which Ferrer refused to appear, a historic civil contempt resolution approved of unanimously by the Senate, and a U.S. District Judge ruling that Backpage must comply with the Senate’s subpoena.

The Supreme Court’s decision was widely covered by state and national media. Highlights can be found below:

  • “The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Backpage.com, a website involved in a U.S. Senate child sex trafficking investigation, will have to comply with a subpoena issued by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s subcommittee… Portman called the decision ‘a major victory in our efforts to protect women and children from the evils of online sex trafficking.’… Portman says he wants to learn more about how the company screens ads, how it blocks or stops ads and, in particular, whether it plays hide-and-seek with ad wording or other things that might allow it to keep running the ads while asserting it, too, cares about children.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • “The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling requiring an official of a website believed to be a trafficker of children to turn over documents subpoenaed by a Senate subcommittee headed by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio… In a brief and unsigned order Tuesday, the justices handed a victory to Portman and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who have called on Carl Ferrer, chief executive officer of Backpage.com, to turn over documents as requested by a Senate subpoena.” — Columbus Dispatch
  • “The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to block a congressional subpoena seeking information on how classified ads portal Backpage.com screens ads for possible sex trafficking… Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called the court’s action a victory in the effort to protect vulnerable women and children from online sex trafficking.” — Associated Press
  • “The U.S. Supreme Court denied Backpage.com’s request to stay their ‘landmark victory in their contempt action against Backpage.com and its CEO, Carl Ferrer,’ … As a result, Backpage must now turn over all documents under subpoena to Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, according to the release. — Dayton WDTN
  • “The website was subpoenaed nearly a year ago by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. When the subpoena -- which was issued in October 2015 -- went unanswered, the Senate took a rare move and held Backpage in contempt of Congress, which hadn’t been done since 1995… Senators Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill are heading up the Senate investigation. The lawmakers have called Backpage "the most important player" in the commercial sex advertising market.” — CNN
  • “The Supreme Court has refused to block a Senate panel’s subpoena seeking records from Backpage.com about the prevalence of ads for sexual services, including incidents of minors being sexually trafficked via the site… ‘Today’s decision is a major victory in our efforts to protect women and children from the evils of online sex trafficking,’ Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement. ‘Instead of working with us to help protect the innocent victims of sex trafficking all across the United States, Backpage has instead fought our efforts at every step of the way while the problem of online sex trafficking gets worse, not better. We look forward to reviewing the subpoenaed documents that Backpage has unlawfully tried, for 11 months, to withhold from Congress.’” — Politico
  • “The Supreme Court sided with Congress on Tuesday in a fight over subpoena power, ordering Backpage.com to turn over business records as part of a Senate investigation into sex trafficking… The subcommittee, led by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, told the Supreme Court that it needs to receive and review the company’s records for use in depositions, a public hearing and a final report before the adjournment of the 114th Congress.” — Roll Call

Senator Portman’s investigation into Backpage’s practices is just part of Portman’s efforts to help end human and sex trafficking. As founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, Senator Portman has a long record of fighting this terrible crime. He has authored five federal anti-trafficking laws signed by President Obama, each designed to make a real difference in better serving victims and helping law enforcement to combat this horrific crime. In addition, he continues to make visits across the state of Ohio to meet with survivors to hear their stories learn how he can to help.

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