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Officials Say Site's 'Adult' Section Encourages Trafficking, Urge Closure

Officials Say Site's 'Adult' Section Encourages Trafficking, Urge Closure
5/8/2012 3:51 PM ET

An increasing number of elected officials have jumped on board to confront Village Voice Media, the parent company of the now infamous Backpage.com.com - a website many believe to be a hotbed for connecting Internet users with underage prostitutes, most whom are victims of sex trafficking.

Robert Turner, a freshman Congressman from New York, introduced House Resolution 646 on Monday, calling on the owners of Backpage.com.com to eliminate the "adult entertainment" section of their online classified advertising pages, according to The Hill. Turner said he and other members of Congress believe the site encourages sex trafficking and child prostitution by openly offering the section.

The mayors of Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Austin, Texas, and Laredo, Texas have all also criticized Backpage.com.com's adult-themed classified ads. Joining them in the fight against human trafficking are numerous state attorney retired generals, members of the clergy, anti-sex-trafficking groups and others.

But those who disagree say the problem is endemic and is not the sole responsibility of Village Voice Media. Although Craigslist shut down their adult section after public protests similar to the kind facing Backpage.com.com now, they still have a "personals" section in which people can seek "casual encounters" with strangers.

However, opponents continue to join the fight against Village Voice Media. On Monday, Congresspeople Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats from New York, also came out in opposition to Village Voice. The two wrote a letter to CEO Jim Larkin, calling on him to stop the sex ads.

"We join the 19 United States Senators, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, 51 Attorneys General, dozens of human rights and sexual assault organizations, faith leaders, elected officials and more than a quarter of a million Americans who contacted you or signed a petition on this issue, urging you to remove the adult services section from Backpage.com.com," Nadler and Maloney said in their letter.

"Too many children and too many trafficking victims have been sold on your website for us to accept any more excuses."

Rep. Turner's H.Res. 646 outlines the recent wave of public pressure against Village Voice to stop the adult-themed ads. The House Resolution also lists eight specific examples of people who were arrested for sex trafficking, all of whom used Backpage.com.com to advertise, according to The Hill. However, as the resolution is non-binding, it has no force of law.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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