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Suit: Backpage.com’s profits suffered after Sheriff Dart went to credit card companies

Backpage.com, a classified ad website, filed a motion for injunctive relief against Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Tuesday, saying he overstepped his bounds and adversely affected their business.

However, the sheriff’s office says, Dart is working to protect victims of sex traffickers and bring perpetrators to justice.

The motion for injunction relief was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Backpage contends that Dart effected “an informal extralegal prior restraint of speech without due process” when the sheriff went to credit card companies and asked them to no longer process payments to Backpage.

The sheriff’s office says that was done to limit the amount of sex trafficking that operated on the site.

“For years, Sheriff Dart has laid out to Backpage the numerous instances where pimps and traffickers have used their site for criminal purposes and attempted to negotiate in good faith with Backpage’s management to find common ground and put traffickers behind bars,” Sophia Ansari, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening.

Backpage alleges that Dart’s actions not only affected their bottom line, but infringed on the rights of anyone who uses the site.

“Sheriff Dart’s actions have not only infringed Backpage.com’s rights to publish and distribute speech, but the rights of millions of the website’s users to post and receive protected speech,” the suit stated.

In 2009, Dart filed a lawsuit against Craigslist to close the “erotic services” part of the website, but the suit was dismissed.

Backpage is asking the court to find Dart’s actions unlawful and unconstitutional. They’re also seeking an order that would compel Dart to retract his letters to the credit card companies.