Backpage.com, rather predictably, isn’t budging from its claim that it’s already doing plenty to prevent juvenile prostitution and sex trafficking on its site.
In a letter to Attorney General Rob McKenna—who, last month, called on Backpage to shut down its escort ads and prove it was working to prevent prostitution—Backpage says “There is no gap between our mutual goal of eradicating the scourge of child trafficking as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Citing its use of “aggressive content moderation and programmatic content filtration” technology, the company reasserts its claim that there “there can be no question that Backpage.com does its best to provide a sage and legal environment for its customers and to be a responsible corporate citizen.”
Backpage also trots out its constitutional protection defense (they’re “First Amendment Extremists,” remember?) in its letter, saying that “any prosecution or threatened prosecution of Backpage.com would infringe free speech rights under the First Amendment.”
It’s no surprise that Backpage is sticking to their guns, given that the company would likely lose millions by shutting down its escort ads. Now McKenna and the other AGs have to decide how far they’re going to fight this.
So far, McKenna hasn’t indicated what his next step will be, and simply issued his own standard response to Backpage’s letter:
“The letter says that Backpage.com is committed to combating child sex trafficking,” McKenna said in his statement. “But given the number of obviously illegal services advertised on Backpage.com, and the number of minors ensnared by traffickers using the site, we’re quite interested in learning how Backpage.com supports that claim.”
McKenna says his office is reviewing documents from Backpage to see if their claims can be substantiated.
Ultimately, McKenna says, “The adult services section should be shut down. Prostitution disproportionately harms kids, runaways and former victims of child sexual abuse. It’s unfortunate that businesses like Backpage.com profit from that kind of exploitation.”