RALEIGH, NC (NCDOJ) — Backpage.com needs to step up efforts to remove advertising for human trafficking, especially ads that could involve children, say Attorney General Roy Cooper and 45 other state attorneys general.
“Websites must not to turn a blind eye to those who profit from the abuse of children,” Cooper said.
Backpage.com lists online classified advertisements for a fee of $1 and up. The site has localized pages for cities across the country, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Wilmington and other North Carolina locations.
“While Backpage.com professes to have undertaken efforts to limit advertisements for prostitution on its website, particularly those soliciting sex with children, such efforts have proven ineffective,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter sent to the website’s attorney today.
The attorneys general are concerned that Backpage.com is a hub for human trafficking, and especially the trafficking of minors.
“We have tracked more than 50 instances, in 22 states over three years, of charges filed against those trafficking or attempting to traffic minors on Backpage.com,” the attorneys general say in their letter. “These are only the stories that made it into the news; many more instances likely exist.”
The attorneys general want to know how Backpage.com scrutinizes adult services ads for possible illegal activities, how many ads it has rejected and/or removed, and how many ads it has reported to law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The letter asks Backpage.com to turn over detailed information to the states by September 14.
Backpage.com is the top provider of adult services advertisements and is owned by Village Voice Media, LLC, which also owns 13 weekly newspapers across the United States. Industry analysts suggest that Village Voice earns about $22.7 million in annual revenue from ads for adult services. Attorneys general have previously asked Backpage.com to take down the adult services portion of its site.
In 2008, 42 attorneys general including Cooper reached an agreement with Craigslist to crack down on illegal listings, in an effort to reduce crimes like human trafficking. Craigslist ultimately removed its erotic services section altogether in May 2009.