Backpage.com says it won’t drop adult-services ads

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. — The Backpage.com classified-advertising website says it will not close its adult-services section despite a call to do so from 21 state attorneys general.


Village Voice Media-owned Backpage.com said in a blog posting yesterday that it would not drop the category because it had increased efforts, including working with law enforcement officials, to block ads promoting prostitution and child-trafficking.


Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced earlier that he and 20 other colleagues had sent a letter to Backpage calling for the removal of its adult-services ads because of concerns the site couldn’t effectively screen out illegal ads. Blumenthal said he planned to meet with the other state officials about Backpage's decision.


Craigslist closed its adult-services section earlier this month after the attorneys general and others raised similar concerns.


Blumenthal estimates that Backpage makes $17.5 million from prostitution ads. A message left with a spokesman for Village Voice Media was not returned in time for this story.


Attorneys general from Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia also signed the Sept. 21 letter.


In a related story in Missouri, a girl who ran away from home and became a prostitute at age 14 is suing Village Voice Media, accusing the newspaper conglomerate of knowingly allowing her pimp to advertise her sexual services on Backpage.com.


The lawsuit, which does not name the plaintiff, was filed Sept. 16 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis and seeks at least $150,000 in damages. The girl claims that Backpage.com knew prostitution was being facilitated on the site but did nothing to stop it. She contends items advertising sex with her were posted on the site.

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