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Originally published Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 4:31 PM

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Editorial: Crack down on online prostitution sites like backpage.com

Hundreds of kids are sexually exploited every day in King County. The community should end this scourge by demanding that websites such as Backpage.com stop advertising adult entertainment services.


Seattle Times Editorial

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BACKPAGE. COM is still at it, making millions as the most ubiquitous purveyor of online prostitution ads in the country.

This shameless classified-ads website was in the news again this month for its role in the case of a Seattle attorney accused of raping at least five women at massage parlors. Danford Grant searched hundreds, possibly thousands, of times for Asian massage therapists on Backpage.com and Craigslist.org, according to court documents cited in an April 17 Seattle Times news report.

A public backlash in 2010 prompted Craigslist to stop listing adult services. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for Backpage.com, which displays ads selling cars and household items alongside an “adult” entertainment section.

Law-enforcement officials regularly trace crimes involving sexually exploited victims to Backpage.com, which does not verify the ages of workers listed on its site. Communities and business leaders should call out Backpage.com for what it is: a facilitator of sex trafficking.

The Internet empowers pimps to post an endless stream of titillating photos of sex workers, many of whom are forced into the trade as children. Pimps know that johns routinely scour Backpage.com for escort services, massages, body rubs and strippers.

Backpage.com hides behind the Communications Decency Act to shield itself from liability for third-party postings. Yet, it has no qualms accepting nearly $26 million in revenue every year from sex-industry advertisements. Free-speech rights in the act are meant to protect a healthy exchange of ideas, not to promote illegal activities such as child prostitution.

Congress should pass the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act.

This legislation, introduced last month by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would create a legal framework through which the federal government could finally prosecute websites that aid the victimization of underage workers through commercial advertising.

The online community has a responsibility to help cut off the demand for these illicit services. Do not buy, sell or trade any goods on Backpage.com until it stops peddling for pimps.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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