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Premiere of Reason’s Backpage Documentary & panel discussion


Premiere of Reason’s Backpage Documentary & panel discussion

July 23 @ 6:30 pm 9:00 pm

In 2018, journalist Mike Lacey was working at his desk when movement outside his office door caught his eye. He looked up and saw a government agent pointing a gun at him.

Lacey, who co-founded the classified ad site Backpage with his business partner Jim Larkin, was under arrest on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and facilitating prostitution online . As publishers of the user-generated ad site, Lacey and Larkin should have been protected by the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes web services from liability for content posted by their users. Moreover, Backpage banned ads for anything illegal, including prostitution. Staff were careful to keep ads posted by or featuring minors off the site as best they could and cooperated extensively with law enforcement. So as the charges piled up, Lacey and Larkin refused to cut a deal.

On Tuesday, July 23, join us for the premiere of Reason’s latest documentary about the impact that the Backpage case has had on the lives of Lacey, Larkin, and sex workers who relied on the service for their own safety, as well as the case’s implications for online speech of all sorts. Following the 30-minute documentary, Nick Gillespie will talk with Reason Senior Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who co-produced the documentary, to discuss the legal and constitutional aspects of this years-long prosecution. Also joining the conversation will be Old Pros’ founder Kaytlin Bailey, an advocate for the decriminalization of sex work, who appears in the documentary.

The documentary will be viewed at Sovereign House, located at 185 E. Broadway on the Lower East Side, across from Seward Park. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the program will start at 7:00 p.m sharp; the panel discussion will take place immediately after. Tickets are $10 and include the film screening, the panel discussion, and light appetizers. There is a cash bar at the venue, and smoking is allowed in the backyard area.

The Backpage saga serves as a harrowing reminder of how unyielding government power can devastate the lives of individuals fighting for freedom. Sadly, the story isn’t over yet. After a mistrial, a second trial in 2023, and Jim Larkin’s suicide earlier this year, Lacey will be sentenced on the remaining charges on July 9. You can also read Reason’s coverage of the case here.


Sovereign House

185 E Broadway
New York, New York 10002
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