If justice prevails, Backpage.com will never return to selling sex online.
The U.S. Justice Department made a decisive strike against the leading internet sex trafficking site. And just days later on Wednesday, the president signed a bill that gives federal and state prosecutors more power to go after websites like the sinister Backpage.com, which has enabled widespread and sophisticated exploitation of women and girls.
The feds shut down the site April 6 and seven people were charged in a 93-count federal indictment for crimes related to prostitution and money laundering.
This action is a major victory in the fight to end sex trafficking of women and children. This blow ought to be fatal to the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex and child sex trafficking.
Backpage.com has earned hundreds of millions of dollars purveying its immoral trade in Washington and across the United States, according to federal prosecutors.
Most Read Opinion Stories
- We fell in love with and put down roots in a vanishing Seattle | My Take
- Keep fighting for health insurance for all | Editorial
- Seattle should reject head tax on jobs | Editorial
- Thank you, Starbucks, for copping to the reality of implicit bias | Leonard Pitts Jr. / Syndicated columnist
- Student loan debt
FBI Director Christopher Wray promises this website will no longer serve as a platform for human trafficking and that those who employed Backpage.com for financial gain will be held accountable for their heinous actions.
“Whether on the street or on the internet, sex trafficking will not be tolerated,” Wray said in a statement, promising the investigative work would continue, with help from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and local law enforcement.
Law-enforcement officials say Backpage.com has been one of the busiest places online for sex trafficking.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 71 percent of the child-sex-trafficking tips it receives from online sources involve ads on Backpage.com.
Shared Hope International, an international anti-trafficking organization, calls technology the single greatest facilitator of the commercial sex trade. Its 2017 report says Washington and a few other states are doing a good job of combating this problem. The organization commends Washington’s human trafficking laws for allowing prosecution of buyers when the victim is a minor even when a case doesn’t involve force, fraud or coercion. The state also increases penalties for cases involving minors and specifically mentions using electronic communications to purchase sex in the statute.
Other states are well behind Washington in this area of the law. Federal action is the key.
Previous efforts to stop Backpage.com failed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says this time the legal action will succeed.
“We have put an end to the violence, abuse, and heartache that has been perpetrated using this site, and we have take a major step toward keeping women and children across America safe,” Sessions said in a statement.
He’s right. The Justice Department’s recent action should be the final act of this nefarious business. Federal authorities must keep fighting until online sex trafficking is eliminated on all platforms.