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Backpage.com Still Sparring With Seattle Over Online Escort Ads

Sara Lerner
05/08/2012

The scuffle continues between political leaders and an online classifieds site where police find underage girls being prostituted. KUOW's Sara Lerner reports.

TRANSCRIPT

Both sides agree it's happening: pimps use Backpage.com to sell services of girls they've forced into prostitution. But in the ongoing dispute between Backpage and Seattle officials, that's where the agreement stops.

Backpage's brand new attorney Liz McDougall once defended Craigslist over the same exact issue: its escort ads. In an editorial published in The Seattle Times on Sunday, McDougall says Backpage is a powerful ally in the cause against forced teenage prostitution. She says the company is using unprecedented online tools to help catch victims.

Washington state Senator Jeanne Kohl–Wells, to put it mildly, disagrees. She spoke with the Seattle mayor at a press conference Monday.

Kohl–Welles: "Now for Backpage.com refer to itself as an ally in fighting human trafficking to me is like having a pimp say he is a guardian or protector of a minor. It's crazy."

Village Voice Media owns the Seattle Weekly as well as Backpage.com. Kohl–Welles and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn say there's a simple solution: force the individuals who post escort ads to show up in person and bring identification to prove they're old enough. That's how The Stranger does it, and how the Seattle Weekly does it for their printed paper. But online, they use the Village Voice Media–owned site, Backpage.com.

Village Voice Media did not return KUOW's calls for comment.

I'm Sara Lerner, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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