Backpage.com shut down the adult services section of its website to U.S. users Monday night, citing “unconstitutional government censorship.” The closure came shortly after the release of a 53-page report from the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which found that Backpage knowingly concealed crimes occurring on its site by editing ads and facilitated child sex trafficking by refusing to act swiftly when alerted to children being sold for sex on its site.
NCMEC was especially disturbed to have learned from the Senate report that Backpage purposefully underreported instances of potential child sex trafficking to NCMEC. Every unreported ad was a potential child victim that NCMEC was never made aware of, and therefore was unable to help.
The report also revealed the true owners of Backpage to be James Larkin, Michael Lacey and Carl Ferrer. All three men are currently facing pimping and money laundering charges in California.
NCMEC has previously called on Backpage to take internal measures to prevent children from being trafficked for sex and victimized on Backpage.com.
“It has always been within Backpage’s discretion to voluntarily ensure its site is not being used to facilitate the crime of child sex trafficking,” said NCMEC CEO John Clark. “While NCMEC is unsure of the impetus for Backpage’s recent decision, we are gratified to know that as result, a child is now less likely to be sold for sex on Backpage.com.”
The senate report comes as a result of more than twenty months of the Subcommittee’s investigation into the problem of online sex trafficking. The investigation led the committee to focus on Backpage.com, which in NCMEC’s experience is the number one website where children are sold for sex online. “We commend the Subcommittee, especially Chairman Rob Portman and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill, for their continued leadership on the investigation and their dedicated assistance to victims, survivors and their families,” said Clark.