Backpage.com has closed its adult ads section after a U.S. Senate report tied the site to sex trafficking.
HERE is some good news about Congress: Government pressure has succeeded in pushing Backpage.com to close its adult ads section. The site shut down last week following the release of a U.S. Senate report linking it to criminal activity including sex trafficking of children.
The online classified ad website is crying government censorship. Others see the situation very differently.
The leaders of the bipartisan investigation, U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told The Los Angeles Times that Backpage.com’s response to the report was a validation of their findings.
The report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on investigations found Backpage.com was concealing evidence of criminal activity by editing its adult ads to remove words that indicate sex trafficking. The report said internal documents showed that 70 to 80 percent of the ads are edited to cover up the underlying transaction.
Bravo to the Senate subcommittee. The underage girls sold for sex on the website need powerful champions.
Until last week, Backpage.com was the busiest place online for sex-trafficking activities, according to law-enforcement officials. Now there’s concern that these ads will shift to a different part of Backpage.com, such as the personal ads, and other sites will fill in the gap.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 71 percent of the child-sex-trafficking online tips it receives involve ads on Backpage.com. Shared Hope International reported in 2015 that 495 child victims of sex trafficking nationwide were tied to Backpage.com.
Also last week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit on Backpage.com that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had joined. The justices left a lower-court ruling in place that said federal law shields Backpage.com from liability because it hosts content provided by the people who use it.
But other efforts against the website continue in Washington and other states. In a precedent-setting ruling last year, the Washington State Supreme Court decided Backpage.com can be sued in state court by girls who say the website aided in their being “bought and sold” as prostitutes.
This fight should continue until online sex trafficking is eliminated.