Backpage.com, LLC v. Dart, No. 15-3047 (7th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Backpage.com provides an online forum for classified ads and includes an “adult section.” The Sheriff of Cook County initiated a campaign to extinguish Backpage’s adult section - and, by extension, all of Backpage - by demanding that credit card companies prohibit the use of their credit cards to purchase any ads on Backpage since the ads might be for illegal sex-related services or products. Backpage sought a preliminary injunction to stop the sheriff’s actions, arguing that the sheriff was violating the First Amendment by curtailing freedom of expression. The district judge denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the sheriff, in his capacity as a public official, violated the First Amendment by issuing and publicizing threats against credit card companies that process payments made through Backpage’s website, including threats of prosecution, in an effort to shut down Backpage.