MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A website used as a major promoter of sex trafficking in the United States is making a change.
Backpage.com announced Tuesday that it would suspend the adult services section of its website after government pressure. Local lawmakers say censoring the website is a positive step in the fight against human trafficking, but people on the front line of the problem know the fight is not over.
If you click on the adult section of Backpage.com, you won’t find what you’re looking for. The section is now “censored”, shut down because of its ties to the sex trade industry.
“It truly has been a platform to traffic minor children for buying and selling of sex,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.
Choi says 9 out of 10 sex trafficking cases prosecuted by his office have a connection to Backpage. He’s concerned that now that the website has agreed to close down its adult section, ads for the sex trade will migrate somewhere else.
Terry Forliti is a former prostitute, who now helps others escape the life at Breaking Free.
“The perpetrators are very cunning, and we know that they are not going to stop,” she said. “We know that this is still the number one black market crime on the planet.”
Forliti and Choi both believe educating the public and having tough conversations about the impact of the sex trade with young men and women is key to stopping it.
“What needs to happen is we need to start thinking about how we get at the demand,” Choi said.
That demand led to the arrest of 48 people around the towns of New Ulm and Mankato in connection with a Backpage.com sex trade operation.
“This was the big website everybody used, and by going after one you set an example that you will go after another,” Senator Amy Klobuchar said.
Klouchar and Congressman Erik Paulsen have been instrumental in passing legislation that protects victims of the sex trade. Now both are celebrating the takedown of Backpage.com.
Choi says Backpage was very helpful when he investigated any case involving the website. His concern is if the adult section moves to a website that is overseas, it would make it hard to get the information necessary to prosecute the bad guys and protect the victims.
Choi says he will continue to advocate for more resources to investigate suspected cases of sex trafficking as well as resources to go after the demand. More importantly he hopes to take the lead in starting the conversation on how we raise boys in our society.