Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Stop a Predator...? Don't Ask Backpage, Yet.

/PRNewswire/ -- Ongoing independent research commissioned by Women's Funding Network, in partnership with the Georgia-based "A Future. Not A Past." campaign, has exposed Internet classified sites as the most commonly used platform for buying and trafficking adolescent girls.

A report released in October by the AIM Group, a global team of consultants in interactive and traditional media, found that Village Voice Media, with its backpage.com classifieds site, is the new leader in online sex advertising. The site recently announced the acquisition of an online security specialist and an initial take-down of roughly half of their sex-related categories while putting others under review. The other half of the frequently misused categories to advertise illegal sex, often related to trafficking, remain active and girls continue to be exploited on backpage.

A CNN segment aired yesterday highlights the plight of just one of thousands of girls trafficked online every day. A young woman who was coerced into the sex trade at 14 is suing Village Voice Media, accusing the newspaper conglomerate of knowingly allowing her trafficker to advertise her sexual services on backpage.com, alleging that websites like backpage provide a "safe house" for traffickers and predators to buy and sell girls for sex.

"How many more girls will be trafficked before Village Voice Media takes comprehensive action to protect them? From what we've seen so far the answer is not nearly far enough," says Deborah Richardson, chief programs officer at Women's Funding Network. "The fact is that girls are being bought and sold online while media companies that provide a platform for this illegal activity increase their profits and market share," Richardson adds.

"Drastic steps must be taken to combat sex trafficking of girls in the United States. Instead of applying a band-aid approach to the problem, companies like backpage must take action to truly protect girls through improved screening and monitoring, and increased cooperation with law enforcement," concludes Richardson.

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