Press Release from Attorney General Robert Cooper, Oct. 22, 2010:
Backpage.com Makes Changes to Adult Services Section, But Attorney General Cooper Says More Needed to Protect Women, Children from Exploitation
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper today said he appreciated Backpage.com’s recent decision to make changes to some of its adult and personal ads, but added it could do more to help fight prostitution, human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.
BackPage.com has announced, effective immediately, it has made some changes to “prevent the misuse of the site and its services” approximately one month after attorneys general in several states jointly asked the company to close those sections of its online classified ad business.
Backpage.com officials stopped short of saying they would close the adult and personal ads sections but said that they would continue to develop technologies, features and programs specifically tailored to avoid misuse and has begun to “ensure that content posted is legal and consistent with the site usage police.”
“This announcement shows a good faith effort but it’s not enough,” Attorney General Cooper said. “Backpage.com needs to close the loopholes to ensure their online advertising is not being used to promote innocent women and children as sexual commodities.”
General Cooper and other attorneys general recently also asked another major online ad company to close its adult services sections. Craigslist made an announcement similar to Backpage.com in response to the multistate request. Backpage.com has also called for the creation of a multi-stakeholder national task force to create best practices in the online classifieds industry to help stop the ability to advertise illegally.
The Attorneys General urged the company to take steps to prevent migration of prostitution ads into its personals section, including charging for and manually reviewing all personals ads.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has had criminal investigations resulting from the use of backpage.com to promote prostitution. One case in specific involved a 15-year-old girl advertising sex for sale. That investigation resulted in the indictment of two adults on charges of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and promoting prostitution and is currently still ongoing.
Anyone who has information regarding possible illegal abuses of the website should contact local law enforcement. Anyone who has information about a possible crime can also call the TBI Hotline at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Anyone who has complaints with any business regarding unfair or deceptive conduct may contact the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Division of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-342-8385 or online at www.tn.gov/consumer/.