U.S. Senate to Backpage.com: Tear Down These Trafficking Ads!

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate last week passed a resolution exhorting Backpage.com to end publication of its "adult entertainment" section. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Kirk commented, “The numbers are rising, in part because it has become frighteningly simple to order a child prostitute on the Internet. One merely needs to look at the classified ads on Backpage.com, the leading Web site for prostitution advertising in the United States according to the Advanced Interactive Media, AIM, Group. Just a few clicks on this site easily enables ‘johns’ to purchase children for sex. Law enforcement believes that the existence of Backpage encourages the recruitment of victims for sexual exploitation because it allows traffickers to operate out of sight from police patrols.”

Backpage.com argues that it works closely with law enforcement to identify, track down and arrest anyone trafficking minors through the site. One such criminal was convicted in Florida a few weeks ago.

Backpage.com, which was severed from Village Voice Media a few months ago, is now run by Phoenix New Times founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. Operators of the site have also consistently claimed that legitimate speech will be censored if the government tries to force it to shutter the section, and that any moves to do so are unconstitutional.

That view was supported in early December when a federal judge overturned a Washington state law that targeted the site.

"Judge Ricardo Martinez's order was filed Thursday in Seattle after the state declined to continue arguing in U.S. District Court over Engrossed Senate Bill 6252, one of several measures written by lawmakers earlier this year to combat online sex trafficking," reported King5.com. "Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill, aimed at online classified site Backpage.com, into law in March."