US Senator Daniel Akaka
US Senator Daniel Akaka

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has joined a growing list of U.S. Senators and Representatives concerned about Backpage.com‘s trafficking of young girls – a practice lawmakers said generates tens of millions of dollars per year for its parent company, Village Voice Media Holdings via classified advertisements. See the press release here.

While Hawaii has passed anti-trafficking legislation, and is considering additional legislation this year, this is the first time federal legislators are reviewing the matter.

The press release from several members of Congress said: “Most adult services ads are understood by those in the classified advertising industry and law enforcement to be euphemisms for prostitution. State attorneys general and police officers throughout the country say the ads facilitate the exploitation of minors, pointing to frequent arrests of those posting, propositioning or sexually assaulting minors posted on the site – even though Backpage executives say they spend significant resources rooting out ads that include minors.”

According to Villagevoicepimp.com, an organization that closely tracks sex trafficking via Backpage.com, said the site is “widely acknowledged as the premier online destination for pimps who sell underage girls into sexual slavery as well as the depraved customers who pay for them.”

Backpage.com openly promises to connect its clients with everything from escorts, body rubs, strippers, strip clubs, and domination and fetish to transsexuals, male escorts, and pornographic web sites its adult services section.

The Senators who signed the bill “have added their voices to the tens of thousands of Americans signing online petitions and letters to Backpage.com, calling on the online classified site to end so-called ‘adult services advertisements.”

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-WA said he is getting involved because runaways often flee from abuse at home and end up alone on the streets. “Criminals target them because no one notices they’re missing and too often they wind up in the hands of pimps who sell their services on websites like Backpage.com. These kids need our help and I will continue to investigate how we can prevent online classified sites from being used to harm them.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Mark Kirk, R-IL, said “citizens are disgusted to learn how often children are being used as prostitutes in their own backyard.”

While Akaka signed the letter, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, did not. A spokesman for Inouye’s office could not be reached for comment to say why.

Forty eight states and three territories are seeking to hold Backpage.com accountable through various means and more than 97,000 Americans signed a Groundswell petition asking Village Voice to “stop selling ads that others use to sell minors on Backpage.com by shutting down the Adult section of the website.”

Forty-six attorneys general – including Hawaii Attorney General David Louie – in September formally asked Backpage.com’s owners to prove it is preventing children from getting trafficked through its classified advertisements.

Hawaii Attorney General David Louie called the site a “beacon for human traffickers.”

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said: “Every day, more voices join those speaking on behalf of young people sold by pimps on Backpage.com. It’s wrong when pimps traffic human beings and it’s wrong for a major corporation to monetize such exploitation. Backpage executives must decide if they will continue to be impervious to public opinion and immune to any sense of shame, or do the right thing.”

Washington State has become increasingly more aggressive in its efforts to stop trafficking. The state Legislature, passed a law making it a crime to knowingly publish an escort ad involving a minor. McKenna suggests other states should consider such legislation.

Comments

comments

5 COMMENTS

  1. Goodness. This article just about collapses under the weight of its unsupported suppositions and hearsay. Not to say that other news organizations are doing anything more than repeating the government line on this topic, but silly me, I expected more from Hawaii Reporter. Reading this was so disheartening but hopefully I can reach someone by examining this article’s assumptions closely. Think of it like the claims are about HART, maybe? Let’s walk through it.

    “… concerned about Backpage.com‘s trafficking of young girls … ”

    Not “[alleged] support for trafficking of” but directly trafficking?!

    “a practice lawmakers said generates tens of millions of dollars per year”

    Proof? The linked press release doesn’t substantiate this.

    “Most adult services ads are understood … to be euphemisms for prostitution.”

    Is this about trafficking of minors, or shaming of sex work? They aren’t equivalent.

    “According to Villagevoicepimp.com”

    A political organization with an axe to grind against BP? Balanced against … nothing?

    “widely acknowledged”

    By whom?

    “Backpage.com openly promises to connect its clients”

    BP’s clients? Or clients of those who post ads?

    >escorts – LEGAL [as companions, which escorts *are*]
    >body rubs – LEGAL
    >strippers – LEGAL
    >strip clubs – LEGAL
    >domination/fetish – LEGAL [got a problem with that?]
    >transsexuals – um, LEGAL [shame trans* people much?]
    >male escorts – LEGAL [too]
    >pornographic web sites – LEGAL

    What is this list of words supposed to do except squick out religious conservatives?

    “runaways often flee from abuse at home and end up alone on the streets.”

    Sad. And Backpage causes this?

    “Criminals target them … too often they wind up in the hands of pimps who sell their services on websites like Backpage.com.”

    How real is this threat, in numbers? “Like”? How does the volume on BP compare?

    “citizens are disgusted to learn how often children are being used as prostitutes in their own backyard.”

    How often? Where are they learning this? Data, please.

    “A spokesman for Inouye’s office could not be reached for comment to say why.”

    Why not ask Akaka why he *did* sign? Why assume we agree with this witch hunt?

    “48 states and three territories are seeking to hold Backpage.com accountable through various means”

    Hold an advertising service accountable for the actions of advertising purchasers?

    “Groundswell petition [asks BP] to ‘… shut down the Adult section of the website.'”

    And accomplish what? Driving traffic to other services or underground?

    “46 AGs … in September formally asked Backpage.com’s owners to prove it is preventing children from getting trafficked”

    How does one prove a negative? Did VVM respond? They did, BTW: http://bit.ly/H5PLj8 [PDF] http://bit.ly/H2zbUB [HTML]

    “continue to be impervious to public opinion and immune to any sense of shame, or do the right thing.”

    Please stop existing, you are shameful?

    “The state Legislature passed a law making it a crime to knowingly publish an escort ad involving a minor.”

    If this is already a law, what is the problem? Just enforce it.

    Finally, 6 of 7 links in this article go to one source, VillageVoicePimp.com, the links for “Backpage.com” and “Village Voice Media Holdings” included. A link one would think goes to a statement by “Backpage executives” actually goes to VillageVoicePimp.com as well. Is this journalistic integrity? Why would you even bother linking if it all goes to a source with an iron in the fire? How about some honesty by linking to an article on Rob McKenna’s campaign for governor of WA state site instead of VillageVoicePimp.com? Would it reveal his politically ambitious reasons for hounding a business for perfectly legal activities? “… the attorneys general … clearly understand that the laws are not on their side.” http://bit.ly/H4TwGm

    How about balance? A quick search showed me what happened when BP attempted to engage in dialog with its critics before (http://bit.ly/H5Q0La). Here’s a look at the history of this crusade written by a First Amendment Attorney (http://bit.ly/HqMLSl). I wish Hawaii Reporter’s coverage was even remotely as well informed. That’s what well researched, hard-hitting journalism looks like. Without even resorting to pro-VVM sources, I found plenty of commenters that know what’s up at HuffPo (http://huff.to/Hnvo0k). Even here at Hawaii Reporter, some commenters have seen through the attempts of certain groups to hang a wreath of child sex trafficking claims around the neck of the sex work industry (http://bit.ly/HacAUT).

    Don’t take the easy route, Hawaii Reporter. Don’t only be a beacon of truth on rail!

  2. Seems like Bob has little to do except pick apart a very good article. If he was truly interested in doing something about the national epidemic of underage trafficking, he would use his time in a more constructive manner.This is a very thorough and informative article about a problem that exists not only in Hawaii but all over the U.S. People are doing something about it, and this story – with the very helpful links – will get many more (maybe even Bob) involved in stopping what is a terrible blight on society. Keep up the good work Hawaii Reporter. And kudos!

    • Article is nothing but ideological propaganda by religious prudes and militant feminists with an agenda against prostitution even if no trafficking or coercion are involved.

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