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senate Bill S. Res. 377

Holding Backpage.com in Contempt of Congress for Ignoring a Subpoena

Argument in favor

The Senate is investigating online sex trafficking and Backpage.com services. The company has refused to comply with a subpoena, so they should be held in contempt of Congress until they turn over the requested documents.

David's Opinion
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03/18/2016
When Congress issues a subpoena, you must appear. When one does not appear, he or she faces the consequences. No exceptions. Congressional investigations are necessary in guiding congressional action. That is why they have subpoena powers. Failure to appear when called is contemptible.
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Steven's Opinion
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03/18/2016
First I had to look up contempt of congress, I'd never heard the term before so thought it was made up. This is positive action on a problem that actually exist. So, good job congress. But I want to know what specific steps will be taken to help those identified as being forced into "the life" once you get the documents. Will those identified be helped or punished? Otherwise it's just a hollow gesture at best, a witch hunt at worst.
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operaman's Opinion
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03/22/2016
Sounds like Backpage.com may have something to coverup. If warrants have been issued according to a lawful order, Congress should proceed a raid to collect information.
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Argument opposed

The Senate doesn’t need to be investigating online sex trafficking, as there are law enforcement agencies that have far greater expertise on the matter. Holding the CEO in contempt is unnecessary, especially if there are no concrete charges.

BTSundra's Opinion
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03/18/2016
If you're not going to go after Apple for not complying, don't go after this site. Double standards are never a good thing.
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SouthernGal's Opinion
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03/18/2016
This is a job for the FBI. We pay the FBI to investigate these things. We pay congress to enact laws. Congress has been doing a lousy job which is why it has a 13% approval rating. Everyone should concentrate on doing the jobs they were hired to do. We need judges, immigration reform, a budget would be good, expanding social security and other social safety nets. Congress, do your own job.
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Ron's Opinion
···
03/18/2016
This is a law enforcement issue and the Senate has no authority in this matter. This is simply political posturing
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simple resolution Progress


  • The senate Passed March 17th, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 96 Yea / 0 Nay
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    IntroducedFebruary 29th, 2016

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What is Senate Bill S. Res. 377?

This resolution would direct the Senate Legal Counsel to bring a civil lawsuit to enforce a subpoena issued to Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage.com. Ferrer and his company, a free classified-ad website, have refused to provide information sought by the subpoena. 

Backpage has been embroiled in a sex trafficking controversy, and hasn’t complied with a subpoena issued by the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee issued in Fall 2015.

The resolution would also hold Backpage in contempt of Congress. The Senate Legal Counsel would be responsible for conducting the civil contempt proceedings against Backpage in federal court. This would be the first contempt vote by the Senate since December 1995, and if successful, the federal court could then force the company to turn over the documents in question.

Impact

Backpage.com, its users, employees, and CEO Carl Ferrer; and the Senate.

Cost of Senate Bill S. Res. 377

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced this bill to assist Senators tasked with investigating Backpage.com in carrying out a subpoena targeting information critical to their investigation:

“The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is conducting an important investigation into the very serious issue of human trafficking on the Internet… I do not take lightly the use of the Senate’s contempt authority, but the subcommittee must have all the information it deems necessary to pursue its inquiry. I will continue to support Chairman Portman and Ranking Member McCaskill in their fact-finding so that Congress can attempt to identify and address the problem of online sex trafficking.”

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed this legislation unanimously on a 15-0 vote.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Screenshot from Backpage.com)

Official Title

An original resolution directing the Senate Legal Counsel to bring a civil action to enforce a subpoena of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

    When Congress issues a subpoena, you must appear. When one does not appear, he or she faces the consequences. No exceptions. Congressional investigations are necessary in guiding congressional action. That is why they have subpoena powers. Failure to appear when called is contemptible.
    Like (22)
    Follow
    Share
    If you're not going to go after Apple for not complying, don't go after this site. Double standards are never a good thing.
    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
    This is a job for the FBI. We pay the FBI to investigate these things. We pay congress to enact laws. Congress has been doing a lousy job which is why it has a 13% approval rating. Everyone should concentrate on doing the jobs they were hired to do. We need judges, immigration reform, a budget would be good, expanding social security and other social safety nets. Congress, do your own job.
    Like (16)
    Follow
    Share
    First I had to look up contempt of congress, I'd never heard the term before so thought it was made up. This is positive action on a problem that actually exist. So, good job congress. But I want to know what specific steps will be taken to help those identified as being forced into "the life" once you get the documents. Will those identified be helped or punished? Otherwise it's just a hollow gesture at best, a witch hunt at worst.
    Like (13)
    Follow
    Share
    This is a law enforcement issue and the Senate has no authority in this matter. This is simply political posturing
    Like (9)
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    Here's the thing: if Backpage doesn't have access to the data desired, unencrypted, then they cannot comply, same as Apple. If they DO have access to the unencrypted data, and all relevant servers are physically located in US jurisdiction, then yes they can and should be held in contempt of congress. It depends on the data.
    Like (4)
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    Sounds like Backpage.com may have something to coverup. If warrants have been issued according to a lawful order, Congress should proceed a raid to collect information.
    Like (4)
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    This is know what this website contributes to the sex trafficking ring.
    Like (3)
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    Congressional subpoena power must be respected.
    Like (3)
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    Sex, and all other personal choices between consenting adults is not the business of the United States government.
    Like (2)
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    Whenever any person or institution gives the government enough suspicion to investigate the mentioned party should comply if they have nothing to hide
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    I don't think congress has any business investigating anyone other than their own refusal to do their jobs but since they got out of their lane, they need to be complied with
    Like (2)
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    Sex trafficking is still a major issue and clearly the agencies in charge of eliminating it aren't solving the problem alone.
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    Maybe congress isn't the only agency that should investigate sex trafficking but it still has the right and authority to do so. Ignoring a subpoena from congress cannot go unchecked or the power of congress is diminished irreparably to the detriment of its ability to take any serious action on any issue!
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    I believe that because sex trafficking is such a huge, serious issue that if this company/web page refuses to comply there should be consequences. In addition, if they are not held in contempt then others may follow their lead in disregarding authority, expecting no negative repercussions.
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    Online sex trafficking is wrong so if this company is guilty of such they should be investigated and subsequently punished. If they're not guilty then they should have nothing to hide and compliance with said subpoena shouldn't be a big deal.
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    Any person who refuses to comply with a subpoena should be held in contempt regardless of whether or not any charges have been made. This is the way it works in our court system.
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    Congress is overstepping their bounds on this, a law-enforcement issue. Seriously, this is a waste of time. Let the people whose job it is to take care of this, do their job.
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    Guilty or not, every person should be answerable to the judiciary system.
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    The Senate has well defined procedures to handle Contempt of Congress defendants and witnesses. This bill is unnecessary.
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