March 17, 2016
This afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted "to hold the classified advertising website Backpage.com in civil contempt for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena into how it screens ads for possible sex trafficking. The vote was 96-0." The vote will force Backpage to cooperate with a previously-issued Senate panel subpoena and account for its facilitation of sex trafficking.
The issue at stake is nothing less than basic decency and the commodification of human lives – in many cases, teenagers and even small children. As Senate Majority Leader McConnell said today on the floor of the Upper Chamber: "The Homeland Security Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations … probe has revealed how trafficking has flourished in the age of the Internet. It's also revealed how many cases of sex-trafficking — including cases involving children — have been linked to one website in particular: Backpage.com. One national group that tracks the issue has told the subcommittee this: nearly three-quarters of all suspected child-sex trafficking reports it receives from the public through its tip line have a connection to Backpage."
As Portman and McCaskill said in a joint statement, "Backpage.com's ongoing obstruction of this investigation will not be tolerated. Our goal is to uncover how sex traffickers get away with selling countless victims through online black markets, so that Congress can devise legislation to more effectively combat this heart-breaking crime … With estimated annual revenues of more than $150 million, Backpage is a market leader in commercial-sex advertising and has been linked to hundreds of reported cases of sex trafficking, including trafficking of children. In a bipartisan staff report issued two months ago, the Subcommittee revealed evidence that Backpage has had a practice of editing advertisements before they are posted by deleting certain words and phrases, which likely served to conceal illegality. The subpoena seeks more information about that practice, but Backpage has refused to turn over documents."
Now a day of reckoning will come. All decent people can look forward to it, not just so that Backpage will be held up to the public disdain it deserves but so that, through appropriate legislative action, it's conduit for the selling and buying of human beings will end.
To learn more about human trafficking, watch a presentation by the Director of FRC's Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, on "The Link Between Pornography, Sex Trafficking, and Abortion," and read "Modern Slavery: How to Fight Human Trafficking in Your Community," by attorney J. Robert Flores, who has represented several anti-human trafficking organizations and served as Administrator of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the administration of President George W. Bush.