Backpage's Growing Role and Culpability in the Sex Trafficking Industry

Maureen Kenny | September 23 | 10:10 - 11:10 AM | Room 3010A

Backpage is the single biggest advertiser of commercial sexual transactions in the United States. Because the number of advertisements continue to grow, Backpage has become a target in both civil and criminal investigations. Many private plaintiffs have sued Backpage for its alleged role in advertising underage youth. Most of these lawsuits have been routinely dismissed on the premise that Backpage, as a website creator, does not have adequate control over the content of the advertisements to be liable for sex advertisements. Recent state court decisions, however, have allowed these lawsuits to proceed against Backpage on the basis that Backpage's "guidelines" facilitate trafficker's illegal practices. Government officials are lashing out against Backpage by urging credit-card companies to disallow any charges related to "escorts" or similar "adult advertisements". Finally, the United States Senate is currently investigating Backpage's role in furthering sex trafficking and recently issued a civil-contempt order against the company because Backpage refused to cooperate in the investigation. The prevalence of Backpage in the field of sex trafficking, the status of the legal proceedings involving Backpage, and the likely future of this website and similar websites will be discussed.

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