Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: backpage.com

Dec.
9th

U.S. law shouldn’t abet pimping of children

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The U.S. District Court of Western Washington has just put an item on Congress’ to-do list: Stop providing legal cover for child prostitution.

Congress didn’t set out to empower pimps when it approved the Communications Decency Act of 1996. But it failed to anticipate how skillfully they would exploit the Internet through Backpage.com and other prostitution-friendly websites.

An important provision in the act was intended to protect legitimate Internet websites from legal action arising from information posted by third parties. A newspaper, for example, could not be sued or prosecuted over malicious comments posted by readers on of its articles.

But there was an unintended consequence: The law is now effectively enabling the sex-trafficking of young girls.

Until Thursday, Washington had the toughest anti-child-prostitution law in the nation, Engrossed Senate Bill 6251. It aimed straight at the online nexus of the industry: Any website that opted to run ads for sex services – that would be you, Backpage.com – would be required to verify that the girls in the photos were at least 18.

If it did not so verify, the people who run the site could face felony prosecution and civil lawsuits.

Federal Judge Ricardo Martinez on Thursday struck down the Washington law, partially on grounds that it violated the Communications Decency Act.

We don’t like the decision, but it’s probably a reasonable reading of a law that was written before anyone knew how much the Internet would extend the reach of predators.

Any website that hosts prostitution ads will wind up being used to sell adolescent girls. If such a website attracts lots of people, it will inevitably help sell lots of girls.

Backpage.com plays a prominent role in Puget Sound child-trafficking.

A month ago, for example, two Pierce County men indicted on charges of pimping out juvenile girls from Puyallup and Tacoma. The case broke when a police officer outside found a 16-year-old from Puyallup in a motel outside Los Angeles; she had been beaten and choked for refusing to sell herself that day.

Where were the girls advertised? Backpage.com.

Congress can surely figure out a way to fine-tune the federal law so that it protects legitimate information brokers without protecting companies that are effectively complicit with criminals.
Read more »

July
31st

Law shouldn’t protect those who profit from teen sex slaves

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Lawyers for Backpage.com seem confident that the latest lawsuit against the website – which is known for its sex-sale ads – won’t get very far.

Maybe. But there’s something to be said for making a business that profits from human trafficking defend itself in court. Backpage.com – which is owned by Village Voice Media – makes about $2 million every month on online sex-sale ads, but every time it is forced to hire lawyers, its dirty business becomes a little more public and a little less profitable.

The latest lawsuit against Backpage.com was filed Friday in Pierce County Superior Court by three girls. Two of the runaways were 13 years old and the third was 15 when they were trafficked on the website, complete with revealing photos. The youngest was advertised as an $80 “special.” Subsequently, they were forced to have sex with scores of men, but the only ones to make any money on the transactions were their pimp and Backpage.com.
Read more »

Feb.
13th

For sale: Girls and women, on backpage.com

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

If this were a better world, backpage.com and other websites that abet child prostitution would shrivel up and blow off into cyberspace.

But we’re stuck with the world we’ve got, so it’s going to take serious action to persuade Village Voice Media – which owns backpage.com – to get out of the pimping business.

The Legislature is moving to create a new felony, “advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor.” Classified ad companies would be required to verify the age of any females whose services they help sell; evidence of a serious, good-faith attempt would protect them legally.
Read more »