Backpage reluctantly takes action after being tied to sex trafficking

Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer,Michael Lacey and James Larkin (Photo Source: SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE),Slavery - Human Trafficking/ Shutterstock image
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin (Photo Source: SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

Knowing that your child is missing and possibly in danger is a horrible feeling for any parent today. For one St. Louis mom, it was compounded by finding her missing daughter being advertised for sex on the website Backpage. In 2009, the 14-year-old daughter of Kubiiki Pride had been missing for nine months. One night she was awake into the early morning hours scrolling through the escorts section of Backpage and spotted her daughter’s picture. She told one media outlet at the time, “My first emotion was complete happiness. Just seeing my child alive made me so happy. When I took the whole picture in, that’s when I noticed the nakedness, the tattoos and the other woman in the pictures.”

According to Pride, her daughter was trafficked, raped and physically abused during her time with the trafficker. She later sued Backpage for its role in her daughter’s captivity but was unsuccessful. Since then, Backpage has been the focus of continuing legal action regarding its role in sex trafficking and prostitution. Recent senate hearings have shown that the website told people who posted sex ads to remove trigger words such as “daddy’s girl” or “cheerleader” that were code words for underage girls. Sex ads on Backpage netted the company millions of dollars in ad revenue and have led to the arrest of its top executives. This week, Backpage removed its adult services section that advertised not only sex but fetish services and erotic massages. The move by the company is heralded as a victory for advocates of victims of child sex trafficking. The company, however, does not agree. Backpage released a statement which says in part, “The decision of today to remove its Adult section in the United States will no doubt be heralded as a victory by those seeking to shutter the site, but it should be understood for what it is: an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics.”

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