Nation’s Top Sex Trafficking Site Refuses to Comply with Senate Subpoena
Backpage Recently Sued Justice Department to Block Kirk-Authored SAVE Act
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) released the following statement after voting to force Backpage.com, the nation’s biggest sex-trafficking website, to provide documents related to their online sale of children for sex:
“Backpage is the nation’s number one sex-trafficking website, so it’s no surprise they are hiding their role in selling children online for sex. I have repeatedly called on the Justice Department to investigate Backpage and enforce my SAVE Act, and while the Justice Department has yet to act, today’s vote is one more step towards stopping Backpage from facilitating modern-day slavery across the U.S.”
S.Res. 377 directs the Senate Legal Counsel to file suit to enforce a Senate subcommittee’s subpoena for information about how Backpage reviews, edits, blocks or approves advertisements, whether it cooperates with law enforcement investigations of sex-trafficking, and how much it profits from adult advertisements.
Backpage has refused to comply with the subpoena, which the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued on October 1, 2015.
In May 2015, Senator Kirk’s bipartisan legislation to combat the sale of children for sex online, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, was signed into law as part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA). The SAVE Act also had the support of 53 state and territorial attorneys general.
The SAVE Act aggressively combats Internet sex-trafficking and the selling of children under the age of 18 for sex by making it a crime for a person, such as the owner of a website, to knowingly advertise a commercial sex act with a minor. Websites like Backpage provide a platform for this type of sex-trafficking advertising, earning more than $30 million a year from their illicit ads, and ultimately contribute to the selling and exploitation of minors.
In December 2015, Backpage sued Attorney General Loretta Lynch in an attempt to prevent the enforcement of provisions in Senator Kirk’s SAVE Act. While Senator Kirk is not a defendant, he was among Members of Congress referenced in the suit.
Kirk Calls on Lynch to Investigate Backpage
In August 2015, Senator Kirk sent a letter to Attorney General Lynch requesting a Department of Justice investigation into Backpage. In January 2015, Senator Kirk led a similar letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder.
In October 2015, Senator Kirk sent a follow up letter to the Attorney General, again calling for an investigation into Backpage and its owners.
In February 2016, 36 law enforcement officials across Illinois sent a letter to Attorney General Lynch in support of Senator Kirk’s request for an investigation into Backpage.
In 2012, Senator Kirk co-signed letters to 40 companies and organizations urging them to stop placing advertisements in publications owned by Village Voice Media, then the parent company of Backpage.