The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has been engaged in an unconstitutional and blatant attempt to crush Backpage.com, a website that carries classified ads, by pretending to seek information it doesn’t need when it is actually using the power of the federal government to be prosecutor, judge, and jury – all rolled into one. The DKT Liberty Project objects to the PSI’s staging what amount to “show trials” akin to those we expect to see in countries like China and Russia. Such tactics by this Subcommittee were pioneered during the Cold War by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and it is a sad day to see their return.
This hearing is the culmination of years of coercive efforts by various members of Congress and government officials at state and local levels to close Backpage.com, despite numerous court decisions upholding the website’s First Amendment rights, including its right to run ads on legal sexual activity. As citizens or parents, the senators can denounce Backpage all they want, but government coercion is unconstitutional. Here, the government is using its power and unlimited financial resources to harass and intimidate Backpage and drain it of its money so it will no longer be able to defend its rights.
With the removal by Backpage of ads relating to sex in any way, the government has succeeded, at least temporarily. This is an appalling misuse of senatorial power.
When we hear about the First Amendment, we often hear about the “chilling effect” on other businesses who will cut back or eliminate speech that is protected by the First Amendment. This is now happening. Our freedoms are being diminished by the actions of this subcommittee.
The DKT Liberty Project is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public interest group dedicated to promoting individual liberty, fighting against overreach by all levels of government, and defending the right to privacy and free speech.