Human Trafficking Site Seized

Apr 9, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The top online human trafficking site, Backpage.com, was seized by the federal government two weeks after the U.S. House and Senate passed a bill to stop online human sex trafficking.  H.R. 1865, known as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, targets online sex trafficking and subjects websites to federal criminal and civil liability when users misuse online personals. President Trump is expected to sign it into law on Wednesday.

H.R. 1865 “amends the federal criminal code to add a new section that imposes penalties—a fine, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both—on a person who, using a facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, owns, manages, or operates an interactive computer service (or attempts or conspires to do so) to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.”

Within hours of the Senate passing H.R. 1865, Craigslist removed its “Personals” sections, the Erotic Review removed prostitution ads and Reddit took down its “Hookers” forum page. Cityvibe is also down. 

Backpage.com founder Carl Ferrer was arrested in 2016 and charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. Despite that, his classified ads website continued to sell online ads promoting sex with minors.

The International Labor Organization estimates there are 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide. In the United States, this $32 billion-a-year industry is increasing in all 50 states. Human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms and will exceed the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years. The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S., and 70 percent of the survivors said they were advertised online at some point while they were being trafficked. In these scenarios, pimps and traffickers, or in some cases the victims themselves, post photos and write classified advertisements on escort sites for buyers to browse. These ads often represent children from 12-17 years old.

“We applaud the federal agencies for following through and seizing the Backpage.com website after Congress passed the online human trafficking bill,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “There is still much work to do to prevent children and adults from being victims of these horrific crimes. However, this is a great victory for sex trafficking victims and law enforcement,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.

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