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Senators Call for Backpage to End Ads Promoting Child Prostitution

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Washington, DC – Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced a Sense of the Senate resolution calling on Village Voice Media, the owners of Backpage.com, to end their facilitation of human trafficking and prostitution by eliminating the "adult services" section of their website.

"Senators have joined the call of law enforcement, state attorneys general, and former victims of Backpage in calling for Village Voice Media to ease the facilitation of sex trafficking and finally take down the portion of the website that continues to victimize children,” said a spokesperson for Senator Kirk. “The ‘profit first’ mentality at Backpage and Village Voice Media continues to prioritize the rights of pimps, not kids.”

“Unconscionably, Backpage is enabling prostitution and human trafficking through the adult section of the website, supporting an avenue for abuse and violence against women and children. Backpage must shutdown the adult section immediately ending its involvement in such repugnant and destructive practices,” said Senator Blumenthal.

“The so-called ‘Adult Entertainment’ section is nothing more than a front for pimps and child sex traffickers. This is absolutely sickening, and should be stopped with all the tools available to us,” said Senator Cornyn. 

Backpage.com, an online classified ad website owned by Village Voice Media, is a major facilitator of online child trafficking through its adult section. This section includes services such as “escorts” and “body rubs,” thinly-veiled codes for prostitution.

According to AIM Group, Backpage.com is the leading United States website for prostitution advertising, generating nearly 80 percent of the online prostitution advertising revenue. In fact, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) found more than 50 cases in 22 states that tied child prostitution crimes to ads posted on Backpage. Similar classified advertising websites, such as Craigslist.com, have taken down their adult services ads after being petitioned to eliminate the section. Backpage continues to ignore the evidence, putting profit above children’s safety. The lawmakers join 51 attorneys general and more than 240,000 Americans who signed a petition in urging Backpage.com to remove the adult services section.

In an April 24th ABC Nightline special on child sex trafficking facilitated by Backpage, Village Voice Media’s legal council suggested that Backpage is actually “a tool to save children online,” even though the Attorney Generals have dubbed it a hub for human trafficking of minors. 

Recently, Senators Kirk, Blumenthal, Rubio, and Cornyn wrote to 40 organizations informing them that the parent company they advertise on, Village Voice publications, owns Backpage. The senators further requested that the organizations use their economic influence as revenue generators for Village Voice Media to end online child sex trafficking facilitated by Backpage. Additionally, 19 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Chairman and CEO of Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC, the company that operates Backpage, demanding the elimination of the adult section that allows the website to profit from the human trafficking industry.

A Department of Justice report shows that approximately 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.

Additionally, Senator Kirk's office recently released Child Sex trafficking: The role of backpage.com, a short video outlining the ugly details of how Backpage.com enables child sex trafficking in the United States.



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