Due to overwhelming pressure from members of Congress, Backpage executives shut down the “adult” classifieds section of its website. This news comes after a US Senate investigation issued a report which contained overwhelming evidence that Backpage.com concealed advertisements for prostitution and the selling of children for sex. Polaris, an anti-human trafficking and research organization praised the move in a statement made by their CEO Brandon Myles saying, “It will make it harder for traffickers and sex buyers to profit from, control, and exploit adults and children who are in the sex trade against their will.” Polaris also operates the national anti-trafficking hotline that received nearly 2,000 reports of sex trafficking cases related to Backpage.com.
Let’s just be clear on a couple things:
First, Backpage’s executives, though they deny the claims, took part in facilitating prostitution and trafficking of children through online access to these ads. Even more, they made a huge profit from it. According to the US Senate report, their revenue from this section on their page started at $5.3 million in 2008 and boomed to $125 million by 2014, only six years after they made the adult ads available. We must take into account that trafficking for sexual exploitation generates 27.8 billion USD in revenue per year [i]. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world. Businesses like Backpage.com benefit from this enterprise, though they attempt to protect themselves from being complicit.
Secondly, though the Backpage site is temporarily down (yes, we hope it’s permanent), it does not mean all websites operating “adult” ads will be targeted. Congress has been pursuing Backpage for years and was finally able to substantiate their claims thanks to Polaris, survivors, and other advocate groups. Also, preventing websites from allowing users to post “adult” content proves to be much more like a game of ‘whack-a-mole.’ Until the issue of supply and demand is addressed, there will be more websites that take its place but we cannot ignore them. We also need to make an effort to protect people from being exploited through addressing the demand.
We congratulate the members of Congress, organizations, and advocates of victims continuing the process in protecting men, women, and children from being sexually exploited.
The shutting down of the “adult” ads on Backpage.com is a huge success in the fight against human trafficking. However, it is important to remember that the fight is not over. We can rejoice over these types of victories but we must also join the other voices championing the cause for freedom, and continue to support the efforts of leaders and organizations around the world who continue the fight against human trafficking.[i] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns, Available: http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/Global_Report_on_TIP.pdf.
You can find more information regarding the prevalence of human trafficking and sexual exploitation on our website at http://iamatreasure.com/about/stats/