Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has ramped up his campaign against Internet
websites used for purposes of sexual trafficking and sexual exploitation. Koster
has joined a group of his fellow attorneys general in demanding that the website
Backpage.com suspend its "adult services" classified advertising section.
Koster and his colleagues argue that the website is being used to promote prostitution
and child trafficking. "We call on Backpage to listen, to care, and to respond now
by shutting down the adult services section of its website. It is the right thing
to do to protect innocent women and children."
Koster says there is little question that the site is being used heavily by those
who are marketing sexual services, including those of underage children. "Anybody
who goes on these sites and takes a look at the type of advertisements that are
occurring, the types of photography, the hourly rates, the dollar-per hour requests,
would be left with little to no doubt that many of these ads are directly related
to prostitution," Koster says.
The challenge by Koster and 20 other attorneys general comes on the heels of a decision
by the website Craigslist to eliminate its "adult services" classified advertising
section. Craigslist buckled to pressure from the attorneys general and a strong
public outcry from victims advocates in deciding to suspend its slimy "adult services"
postings. Backpage.com says it will continue to sell and post such advertising.
Koster and his colleagues believe that the volume of ads promoting illegal sexual
activity on Backpage.com will grow as sexual traffickers migrate from the Craigslist
In their letter to Backpage.com administrators, the attorneys general
state: "It is time for [Backpage] to follow Craigslist's lead and take immediate
action to end the misery of the women and children who may be victimized by these
ads. We sincerely hope Backpage will hear the voices of these victims..."
Backpage recently became the subject of a lawsuit filed in federal court in St.
Louis. A woman claims that she was advertised for prostitution services on Backpage.com
by a pimp at the age of 14. The suit alleges that Backpage is aware that its site
is being used for illegal sexual trafficking, but has failed to monitor the postings
"for fear of what it would learn" so that Backpage could continue to generate the
lucrative revenue such ads bring.
Advocates for victims of sexual enslavement and sexual abuse have taken direct aim
at internet websites that they claim serve as an international marketplace for the
solicitation of sex with children who are in sexual bondage. Fox News recently reported
that even the popular social networking website Facebook is being used by the world's
largest pedophile organization to manage its links to child abusers throughout the
The Fox News investigation revealed that the National Man/Boy Love Association was
using a Facebook site to exchange photos of children with its members around the
world, and to "identify, target, and reel in child victims." Fox News reported
that posts on a pedophile blog offered "tips" on using the site to have real-life
conversations with children, and how to
evade the eye of law enforcement while trolling Facebook for victims.
"This is just the downright filthiest of society setting up on Facebook in a public
way, and the question is, 'Why is Facebook allowing this?'," said Hemanshu Nigam,
co-chairman of President Obama's online safety technology working group and a member
of the board of directors of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children."
Last month eleven suspects were arrested by U.S., Canadian, United Kingdom, and
Australian authorities. The suspects were charged with operating an international
child exploitation syndicate that operated through Facebook. Law enforcement officials
criticized Facebook for not alerting them to the online activities of the perpetrators
Under federal law, companies with electronic servers in the United States are required
to report suspected child pornography to law enforcement through the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children. James Marsh, an attorney who represents children
who are victims of sexual exploitation, says that Facebook and other social networking
websites must do more than what is required by the law.
"Facebook has a moral and public duty to monitor and stop this activity on their
site. Hiding behind legal technicalities is not enough to be a good corporate citizen
in the digital age. Facebook needs to put children ahead of profits and do what
Congress and the American people expect--protect our kids from criminals like NAMBLA."
Many law enforcement officials caution that shutting down dedicated sex trafficking
sites will not eliminate online sexual solicitation. "When we get close to the bad
people in one area, they move someplace else," says Andy Anderson of the Mid-Missouri
Internet Crimes Task Force." Yet Anderson agrees that the efforts by Koster and
other state attorneys general are an important step in the battle against human
trafficking and sexual exploitation.
We commend Attorney General Koster for continuing to make this issue a priority
of his office and for his aggressive efforts to protect women and children in our
state. You can let him know of your appreciation for his work by using this link:
Attorney General Koster
The Missouri Family Policy Council is working on legislation for the coming session
to strengthen Missouri's laws regulating human trafficking and sexual exploitation.