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CONTACT: Geoff Greenwood, Communications Director
515-281-6699, geoff.greenwood@iowa.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 21, 2010

Miller Urges Backpage.com to Remove “Adult Services Ads”

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Attorney General Tom Miller, joined by attorneys general in 20 other states, is appealing to Backpage.com to remove the “Adult Services” section of its website due to growing evidence of human trafficking, child exploitation and prostitution through blatant advertisements on its site.

“Many of the ads now appearing on Backpage.com are nearly identical to the types of ads the public saw on Craigslist.org,” Miller said.  (Craigslist voluntarily removed its “Adult Services” section following a request by Miller and 17 other attorneys general on August 24.)  “We’ve received reports that there are now ads on Backpage promoting prostitution here in Iowa, and there are reports emerging of ads promoting child exploitation and human trafficking in other states.  Iowans didn’t tolerate these types of ads on Craigslist and won’t tolerate them on Backpage.”

Miller and the group of attorneys general conveyed their concerns to Craigslist because it appeared to be the largest purveyor of so-called “adult services” ads flagrantly marketing illegal activity.  “Now that Craigslist has removed these exploitive ads from its website, it seems clear that Backpage is ready and willing to step in as the Internet’s new flagship for so-called ‘adult services.’  I’m asking Backpage to stop posting these ads.”

In a letter to Backpage’s general counsel, the attorneys general stated, “In our view, it is time for the company to follow Craigslist’s lead and take immediate action to end the misery of the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads.”

Earlier this year, the Attorneys General Working Group expressed concerns to Backpage about its “Adult Services” section.  Early this month the website’s legal counsel indicated that, in response to these concerns, Backpage has implemented some changes.  However, Miller and other attorneys general contend that those efforts, which include charging for certain “adult services” ads, have fallen short.  “Until Backpage can better screen these ads, such as manually reviewing and stopping postings that offer blatantly illegal activity, Backpage should shut down the ‘Adult Services’ section altogether,” Miller said.

Miller notes that this office prosecuted the state’s first “human trafficking” case in Crawford County in 2008.  In that case, Leonard Ray Russell recruited and harbored two Nebraska teenage runaways, who at the time were 15 and 16.  Through ads on Craigslist, Russell used the teens for the purpose of commercial sexual activity, including prostitution and performing at strip clubs.  Russell was convicted of a Class C felony and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“Based on past evidence of human trafficking, exploitation and prostitution here in Iowa through Craigslist, it’s time for Backpage to act now before it’s too late to prevent a real tragedy,” Miller said.  “I hope Backpage does what’s right.”

States joining Miller’s letter include: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.