Raleigh, NC-- The Attorney General in North Carolina and 45 other state attorney generals are calling on a company to remove human trafficking ads from its website.
The ads include several cities in NC, including Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
In a news release Wednesday, Roy Cooper said, Backpage.com needs to step up efforts to remove advertising for human trafficking, especially ads that could involve children.
"Websites must not to turn a blind eye to those who profit from the abuse of children," Cooper said. According to the AG's office Backpage.com lists online classified advertisements for a fee of $1 and up.
The site has localized pages for cities across the country, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Wilmington and other North Carolina locations.
"While Backpage.com professes to have undertaken efforts to limit advertisements for prostitution on its website, particularly those soliciting sex with children, such efforts have proven ineffective," the attorneys general wrote in a letter sent to the website's attorney today.
The attorneys general are concerned that Backpage.com is a hub for human trafficking, and especially the trafficking of minors.
"We have tracked more than 50 instances, in 22 states over three years, of charges filed against those trafficking or attempting to traffic minors on Backpage.com," the attorneys general say in their letter. "These are only the stories that made it into the news; many more instances likely exist."
The attorneys general want to know how Backpage.com scrutinizes adult services ads for possible illegal activities, how many ads it has rejected and/or removed, and how many ads it has reported to law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The letter asks Backpage.com to turn over detailed information to the states by September 14.
Backpage.com is the top provider of adult services advertisements and is owned by Village Voice Media, LLC, which also owns 13 weekly newspapers across the United States. Industry analysts suggest that Village Voice earns about $22.7 million in annual revenue from ads for adult services. Attorneys general have previously asked Backpage.com to take down the adult services portion of its site.
This isn't the first time that AGs have taken on websites and their advertisements. In 2008, 42 attorneys general including Cooper reached an agreement with Craigslist to crack down on illegal listings, in an effort to reduce crimes like human trafficking. Craigslist ultimately removed its erotic services section altogether in May 2009.
NC Attorney General's Office