A website that is accused of profiting from criminal sex trafficking has shut down it adult section page.
Earlier this week, Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R- Ohio) opened a hearing on Backpage.com's facilitation of online sex trafficking. A report that stated the page edited advertisements in a way that covers criminal conduct was published on Monday.
Backpage.com announced that same day that as a result of unconstitutional government censorship, it had removed its adult section.
A survivor, who lives in North Texas now, said she was trafficked for almost five years through the adult section of that site.
"Backpage was there, it wasn't going anywhere so as long as Backpage for my trafficking was up, trafficking was going to happen," said the woman in her 20s who did not want to be identified for safety reasons.
She agrees the advertisements on that section can be misleading.
"The advertisement about the women itself are very detailed but yet in a sense that is not directly like 'oh let's pay for 20 dollars to have sex with this person,'" said the survivor.
She said the shutting down of that section is a great start to help prevent and end the trafficking problem.
"It's one sending a message that trafficking is not OK. Two is not only sending a message to the public for awareness but to the victims that there is hope. Help is slowing spreading. There is a way out and people are starting to notice and their lives do matter," said the survivor.
Nonprofit groups that work to combat human trafficking, such as UnBound, praised the decision to shut down that site.
Executive Director Susan Peters said she only knows one victim that has not been trafficked on that site.
"I would call it a victory. The battle is not over but it does communicate to companies that we are not OK with profiting from the sale of boys and girls, women and children so I think it sends a great message," Peters said.
According to Peters, when her organization started it used that page to search for victims. She said that will become a challenge from now on.
"That is the concern. It's going to be more difficult to find victims because what venues are they going to use. What social media apps are they going to use," Peters said. "That is a challenge to figure that out."
Backpage said in a statement this act of censorship will not reduce human trafficking.
"Those who suggest otherwise are deluding themselves and their constituencies. Instead, it undermines efforts by Backpage.com to cooperate with law enforcement and provide information to identify, arrest and prosecute those who engage in human trafficking. We are gratified by the supportive messages of appreciation from law enforcement across the country with whom we have worked to identify, arrest, and prosecute criminals."
The company added this will not end the fight for freedom of speech. The site stated it will continue to pursue its efforts in court to vindicate its First Amendment rights.
Backpage.com is currently under investigation in the state of Texas.
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