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KUOW News Responds To Attorneys General Letter On Child Prostitution

Sara Lerner
09/29/2011 has responded to a request from attorneys general in Washington state and across the country. They want the online classifieds site to do more to protect kids who are being forced into prostitution. KUOW's Sara Lerner reports.


Backpage, which is owned by Village Voice Media, sells classifieds nationwide. Local ads are sold through the Seattle Weekly. Seattle Police and social service providers say the Weekly's own classifieds led investigators to prostituted youth 22 times in the past year and a half. In August, the attorneys general sent Backpage a letter. They asked the site to do more self–policing to help protect kids who are being forced into prostitution.

Backpage has now responded. Here's Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

McKenna: "The letter says that they believe they are cooperating to prevent child prostitution on their website; that they send some information to national center for missing and exploited children already. The tone is good. It's better than what we've heard from them before, but what we ask them for in our letter to them signed by all states and territories is that they show us that they're actually policing the website."

Next, the attorneys general will meet with Backpage to discuss how the self–policing will happen. Still, McKenna says, what he really wants is for all of Backpage's lucrative adult services ads to come down. He says the site is used for illegal activity: prostitution.

McKenna: "Remember that prostitution involves a lot of human trafficking victims who are adults as well. Backpage has been promoting this mythology that prostitution is about two consenting adults. The more research that's done on this, the more we realize that the vast majority of people being prostituted are victims of trafficking. They're not volunteers; they're being coerced, intimdated, raped."

Backpage's attorney would not be interviewed on tape for this story, but he says he looks forward to working with the attorneys general and law enforcement at all levels to prevent misuse of the site.

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