The Fight to End Child Sex Trafficking
Backpage.com, a website owned and operated by Village Voice Media, is the leading website for prostitution advertising in the United States. The site's “adult entertainment” section generates more than 80 percent of prostitution advertising revenue on the web. Village Voice Media, which makes an estimated $26 million per year from these ads, claims it polices the ads on its site, but the statistics say otherwise. According to the National Association of Attorneys General, 23 states have cumulatively filed more than 50 charges against suspects trafficking minors on Backpage.com.
In October 2010, AIM Group completed a study that concluded "Village Voice Media, with its Backpage.com classifieds site, is the new leader in prostitution advertising" after Craigslist eliminated the "Adult Entertainment" section of its website.
In April 2012, AIM Group completed another study about online sex trafficking. The study found that Backpage.com generated at least $2.6 million in "online prostitution ad revenue" during March 2012 alone.
Senator Kirk is leading the effort to help end child sex trafficking on the Internet. On April 12, 2012 Senators Kirk, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) wrote to over 40 advertisers on Village Voice Media, requesting the organizations use their economic influence to shut down the sex trafficking section. The following organizations responded to the Senate letter, committing to end or prohibit future advertisement agreements with Village Voice Media:
- Live Nation
- Crown Imports
- Children's Wish Foundation
- Mayo Clinic
Senator Kirk, along with six other U.S. Senators, has introduced a resolution "expressing the sense of the Senate that Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC should eliminate the 'adult entertainment' section of the classified advertising website Backpage.com."
Senators Kirk, Ron Wyden and Rob Portman introduced the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 to improve state and national data on the scope and prevalence of child sex trafficking and to bring commonsense reforms to the child welfare system to better identify and assist victims of child sex trafficking and commercial exploitation.
The legislation will streamline data collection and reporting on sex trafficking in child welfare. Specifically, the bill requires that state child welfare agencies report the number of children identified as victims of sex trafficking. This legislation will also require that state child welfare agencies immediately report the identity of any child missing or abducted from care. Additionally, this bill encourages states to improve coordination between child welfare, juvenile justice, and social service agencies to address the unique needs of victims of child sex trafficking, including placements in stable housing, treatments for sexual trauma, and other measures to help them reach a full recovery.
On November 19, 2013 Senator Kirk announced his support for the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (S. 1733) and Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, bills that would help improve national anti-trafficking policies by requiring that the law treat women as victims in trafficking crimes and increase authorities' ability to prosecute human trafficking accomplices.
- Village Voice Media
- Child Sex Trafficking
- Justice for Victims
- Stop Exploitation
Letter from the National Association of Attorneys General
In September, 2011, 51 Attorneys General sent a letter about Backpage.com's facilitation of the sexual exploitation of children, and prostitution.
Read the full letter.
Speech to the National Association of Attorneys General
On March 6, 2011, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), gave a speech about Backpage.com to his fellow attorneys general at NAAG’s spring meeting.
Read the transcript of the speech.
An Open Letter to Village Voice Media
On December 2, 2011, 55 leaders in the anti-human trafficking field published an open letter to Village Voice Media CEO Jim Larkin and the Village Voice Media Board of Directors calling on them to shut down the Adult section on Backpage.com.
Read the full letter.
Petition against Backpage.com
A petition hosted on Change.org has approximately 250,000 signatures "demanding that Village Voice Media - Backpage.com's parent company - stop selling ads that others use to sell minors on Backpage.com by shutting down the Adult section of the website."
See the petition.
The story of Backpage.com has been featured by multiple news outlets including The New York Times, Reuters, Roll Call, The Hill, CNN and ABC. On Jul7 27, 2012, three Washington teens filed a lawsuit alleging Backpage.com enabled their sexual exploitation. See below for just a few of the stories: