McKenna and other attorneys general right to take on Village Voice Media's adult-ads business
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna rightly demands Village Voice Media to prove its effectiveness at blocking prostitution ads from its online classifieds site.
VILLAGE VOICE Media Holdings, owner of the online classified advertising site backpage.com, claims strict controls prevent its adult ads section from being used for child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
One problem. Law enforcement keeps finding underage prostitutes being sold for sex on backpage.com.
There are the Washington state teenage girls who tell prosecutors they were coerced, threatened and extorted by two men who marketed them on backpage.com. And a Massachusetts man was charged last spring with forcing a 15-year-old girl into a motel to have sex with numerous men for $100 to $150 an hour. He advertised the girl on backpage.com.
This is a horrific national problem. Intervention from Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and almost all of his counterparts in other states is timely and welcome.
Fighting human trafficking is a signature issue for McKenna as president of the National Association of Attorneys General. The group sent Village Voice Media a letter this week demanding it prove advertising controls are working or get out of the adult-ads business.
Since Craigslist shut down its adults section, backpage.com has become a hub for criminal activity. "Escort" ads advertise prostitution, which is illegal. One clue that the ads are fronts for prostitution — that is, beyond the scantily clad women — is the site's requirement that the ads include hourly rates.
Village Voice rakes in about $2 million a month on these ads. It has been resistant to law enforcement and state government calls, claiming it can restrict prostitution ads.
But local law enforcement this week said backpage.com is still the most prolific offender of sites used to market prostitution. The voices of McKenna and other attorneys general amplify the voices of local leaders, including Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess and anti-trafficking efforts main champion in Olympia, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles.
All the pressure that can be brought to bear should be. Backpage.com's escort-ads section should come down and aggressive steps be taken to ensure the ads don't migrate elsewhere.
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