DALLAS – The Latest on classifieds website Backpage.com (all times local):
Recently discovered documents that seem to show a contractor for the highly criticized classifieds website Backpage.com solicited and created sex-related ads on behalf of the site go against often repeated claims by Backpage that it's never had a role in creating or developing third-party content on its site.
The documents seized from Avion, a Philippines-based company, show that Avion worked to promote and create sex ads on behalf of Backpage overseas.
The seizure and content of the documents were first reported by NBC News.
An attorney for Backpage did not immediately return a phone call or email from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday.
Backpage has said it's protected by U.S. law that grants immunity to websites that post content created by others.
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."