Congressional Testimony & Action
Statement by Yiota G. Souras, Senior Vice President and General Counsel The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Read Full Statement Here.
“Online classified ad sites, such as Backpage.com, provide traffickers with a quick, easy, user-friendly platform and allows them to remain anonymous, test out new markets, attempt to evade public or law enforcement detection, and easily locate customers to consummate their sale of children for sex. Online child sex trafficking also enables traffickers to easily update an existing ad with a new location and quickly move a child to another geographic location where there are more customers seeking to purchase a child for rape or sexual abuse.” Ms. Souras continued, “NCMEC engaged in numerous discussions and meetings with Backpage regarding child sex trafficking on its website and sound practices Backpage could adopt to reduce and deter child sex trafficking in its escort ads…Though Backpage repeatedly represented that it was committed to substantially reducing child sex trafficking on its website, it made largely ineffectual adjustments to its practices and refused to adopt most of NCMEC’s recommended measures, citing its customers’ First Amendment concerns. It soon became apparent to NCMEC that despite Backpage’s assertions, it was adopting and publicizing only carefully selected sound practices, while resisting recommended substantive measures that would protect more children from being sold for sex in escort ads on Backpage.com.”
Statement by Darwin P. Roberts, Deputy Attorney General, State of Washington. Read Full Statement Here.
“Although there are many websites that host “escort”/prostitution advertising, Backpage.com appears to play an especially significant role in the sector. According to various media reports, Backpage.com became a market leader for “adult services”-type advertisements in the wake of Craigslist’s 2009 decision to end its adult services advertising. A significant portion of Craigslist’s advertising, then estimated to generate tens of millions of dollars a year, is believed to have migrated from Craigslist to Backpage.com.13 Backpage.com also seems to consistently appear as one of the top results when Internet search engines are used to find “adult services”- type advertisements.”
“It appears that Backpage.com intends to try to maintain its position as one of the preeminent online sites for advertising “adult services,” litigating vigorously to protect that position while arguing that its own monitoring systems and contacts with law enforcement are the best way to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Nevertheless, despite these efforts, children who are the victims of sex trafficking continue to be advertised on Backpage.com. Given that fact, the State of Washington would be interested to understand Backpage.com’s methods and strategies and what Backpage.com’s own statistics reveal about its systems’ effectiveness. For all of these reasons, the Washington Attorney General’s Office hopes that Backpage.com will deliver a full and helpful response to the Subcommittee’s subpoena.”
Video of Testimony:
Yiota G. Souras starts at 2:40
Darwin P. Roberts starts at 9:33