All 50 states should work together against child sex trafficking on Backpage.com.
UNDERAGE girls sold for sex on the website Backpage.com need a champion to take their cause to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced this week he will join the fight to have the high court hear the appeal of a Massachusetts case against the online classifieds company accused of facilitating child sex trafficking. Ferguson filed an amicus brief along with 20 other states urging the Supreme Court to act.
This cause should be joined by all 50 states. On Thursday, Texas state agents raided Backpage’s Dallas headquarters and the CEO was arrested on felony pimping charges. The fight against Backpage.com needs to move forward in both the courts and Congress.
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. That case has been moving its way through the Washington courts for four years since two of the girls were in seventh grade and the third was 15 years old.
This problem is much bigger than these three victims and a Washington lawsuit. 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 last year that 495 child victims of sex trafficking nationwide have been tied to Backpage.com.
Several federal courts have cited the federal Communications Decency Act as a reason not to consider a child sex trafficking case against Backpage. That law was not intended to allow children to be marketed online for rape and to protect companies like Backpage.com to conduct this kind of business.
Backpage.com has fought hard against these lawsuits because it is a big business for them. According to a 2012 AIM Group estimate, Backpage.com earns more than $22 million a year from sex ads.
Ferguson says he won’t give up — and he shouldn’t. “I won’t stand by and let this site profit from promoting this type of sordid and illegal activity,” he said in announcing his brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He should take a national leadership role in this fight, as then-Gov. Chris Gregoire did with the Big Tobacco lawsuit. This fight is equally important and worth the Washington attorney general’s time and attention.