WASHINGTON, IL – After a Streamwood, Ill., man was arrested for using Backpage.com to engage in the sex-trafficking of a 15-year-old girl, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) sent a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch reiterating his call for the Department of Justice to pursue Backpage.com. A story from today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch is below.
by Chuck Raasch
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is again asking the Justice Department to investigate the Internet site, Backpage.com, days after Chicago police arrested a 41-year-old man for involuntary sexual servitude after allegedly offering sex with a 15-year-old girl in advertising on the site.
“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) can no longer ignore the role Backpage plays in facilitating child prostitution,” Kirk said in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
It is the second time in two months that Kirk, R-Ill., has asked the Justice Department to investigate. In August, he, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, and other members of Congress wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for an investigation of the site. That letter pointed out that Justice had successfully prosecuted another Internet site for advertising sex with minors.
The Justice Department last month acknowledged receiving the earlier letter but did not indicate it was looking into Backpage.
“The Department shares your grave concern about the use of websites to facilitate the prostitution of children, and is committed to using all available tools to bring to justice those who further the sexual exploitation of children,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik wrote then.
But Kadzik said each prosecution must be investigated separately, and he gave no indication that Justice was doing that with Backpage.
Justice Department officials did not immediately respond to the new letter sent Tuesday by Kirk.
The Illinois senator argued in the new letter to Lynch that the news of the arrest over the weekend meant that “the time has come for your DOJ to take action against Backpage and take seriously President Obama’s statements that sex trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery.”
Attempts to reach a lawyer for Backpage were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon.
Backpage lawyer Liz McDougall has previously told the Post-Dispatch that sex trafficking is “Internet wide” and “not restricted to or caused by Backpage.”
In 2012, in a guest editorial in the Seattle Times, McDougall wrote that “to stop human trafficking online, you have to fight it online. To fight it online, you have to be online. And you need allies online.”
Wagner and Kirk earlier this year sponsored legislation signed into law that protects victims of sex trafficking and bans advertising of sex with minors. The two had also earlier written former Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate.