Backpage.com has filed a federal lawsuit aiming to block an investigation by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley who says the classifieds website promotes human trafficking via adult-oriented ads.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the company says federal law and the First Amendment bar attempts to shut down or censor the website. The company says it takes efforts to prevent illegal activity with warnings and filters that block and remove improper ads.
The suit calls the investigation "enormously broad," saying it requires "seven years' worth of documents encompassing essentially all business operations of the company."
Hawley's office issued the investigative demand May 10.
Hawley described Backpage.com's lawsuit as "frivolous" in a statement released Wednesday, saying "there is no First Amendment right to engage in human trafficking."