Senate Investigates Online Classified Ads for Trafficked Minors
The U.S. economy operates on a system of supply and demand. Online classified websites allow people to buy and sell their goods and services to the general public and promote employment opportunities. These platforms allow the economy to thrive, yet without proper safeguards and a watchful eye, these sites may also aid in criminal enterprise. On January 5, the U.S. Senate released an investigative report, “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Child Trafficking,” that asserts that Backpage.com has had a hand in facilitating the supply and demand for minors for commercial exploitation. Findings indicate that the online classified ad companies are one of the largest and most profitable online markets for this crime. Backpage.com has allegedly helped traffickers clean up their online posts in the Adult section in order to hide the evidence that the online ads market minors for adult services. Other online classified advertisement companies, such as Craigslist, have shut down the Adult section altogether. Since the 2009 shutdown of the Adult section on Craigslist, Backpage.com has grown into a $135 million business. Also, according to the report, in 2013, Backpage.com reportedly net more than 80% of all revenue from online advertising in the Adult section that links with commercial acts with minors. The report also cites that 73% of all child trafficking reports that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receives from the general public links back to Backpage.com. However, Backpage.com denies responsibility for the content of its ads and rejects the claim that they are trying to hide criminality. Contrary to the information in the investigative report, the company claims that it screens posts for evidence of underage victims and alerts authorizes when evidence is found.
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“Backpage Shuts Down Adult Ads in the U.S., Citing Government Pressure.” NPR. 10 January 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/10/509127110/backpage-shuts-down-adult-ads-citing-government-pressure
Cooke, Kristina, Dan Levine. “Child…Trafficking Victims Sue Backpage.com in Four States” Reuters. Web. 25 January 2017. Retrieved from: http://reut.rs/2ku7evA