Judge hears arguments in Backpage.com lawsuit

The website Backpage.com is asking a federal judge to block a Washington state law that would require classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the law to cut down on child sex trafficking. It allows for the criminal prosecution of classified ad company representatives who publish or cause publication of sex-related ads peddling children.

Backpage operates an online clearinghouse for escorts.

Backpage lawyer Jim Grant told U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on Friday that the law is pre-empted by the federal Communications Decency Act and violates free-speech principles. Martinez asked whether Backpage couldn't just get rid of its adult services ads.

Grant responded that censoring or prohibiting such ads drives them to other forums and doesn't reduce child sex trafficking.