Backpage.com finally responded to Mayor McGinn’s demands—that the classified ad site improve its security and require physical ID checks for ads in order to protect children from sex-trafficking—with a smugly condescending 12-page later.
“[T]he notion that a worldwide system of Internet postings or ads be addressed via in-person visits to hundreds of offices established in towns and cities across the country is not only utterly impractical, but frankly, it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how and why the Internet has been embraced and used by our populace,” Backpage.com Vice President Carl Ferrer wrote in his letter.
Ferrer claims Backpage is being unfairly picked on for providing an outlet for illegal activity—namely the sexual exploitation of children—when other companies, like Verizon, FedEx, and Google aren’t being targeted by McGinn.
“We recognize that major cell phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon, overnight express companies such as FedEx, credit card companies such as American Express, Visa and Mastercard, and technology giants such as eBay, Google and Facebook have all seen their services wrongly utilized by criminals engaged in virtually every form of violation, from drug trafficking to insider trading and human trafficking,” Ferrer wrote.
In the letter, Ferrer repeatedly refers to juvenile prostitution as “a Web-based problem [which] requires a Web-based solution,” and says his company is exploring using an online ID verification system, similar to those used by online tobacco and alcohol stores. Ferrer claims this system would “likely to be more effective than a physical drivers license that is viewed by a human.”
Ferrer also takes the time in his letter to slip in a pot-shot at The Stranger, some bragging about the Village Voice’s pulitzer, and compares Backpage to Twitter, eBay, and Facebook.
McGinn fired back at Backpage Friday evening with his own letter:
“[W]e think you are glossing over a significant fact [.] Your company is in the business of selling sex ads. Whereas cell phones search engines, or social networking sites might be used occasionally or incidentally in a criminal enterprise, your services are a direct vehicle for prostitution, which is routinely associated with juvenile trafficking and exploitation. It is not unreasonable to ask that you devote a higher degree of care to screening ads for these services.”
McGinn says Backpage’s online ID verification plan “continue[s] to fall short of what is needed to solve the problems identified by Seattle Police,” adding “We believe you have a moral responsibility to step up and provide real solutions.”
So there goes another round of the Backpage/McGinn battle royale, which looks to be far from over.
(Note: We’ve included links to the full PDFs for your perusal)