Backpage shutdown called a step forward for sex-trafficking survivors

Backpage shutdown called a step forward for sex-trafficking survivors

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Backpage.com has been under investigation for years for claims the site facilitates sex trafficking. The site allowed users to post ads for escorts. Investigators said many of the ads were actually for underage girls.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations shut down the website on Friday, April 6.  They also raided the Sedona home of the founder of the website, Michael Lacey.

The shut down has drawn positive feedback from sex-trafficking survivors locally.

Those Tucson News Now spoke to wished to remain anonymous.

"Anybody that's going through this is going to feel a little safer."

This survivor certainly does. She was a victim of trafficking for about a year. Her information was put out online.

"That's where the clients were coming from," she said.

She told us she never knew where her info was posted.

Websites like Backpage often featured ads soliciting sex.

Another survivor we spoke with called it a win.

"It's really great to know that they're making strides in shutting down tools like this," the second survivor we spoke to said.

Backpage was just one contributor to the problem of human and sex trafficking around the country. For years there have been claims that the website facilitated trafficking, exploiting adults and children.

The first survivor we spoke to said knowing it is shut down helps her continue moving forward.

"There's always going to be that in the back of my head. Right now me and God are working on this," she said after a support system has been everything, after what she's gone through.

"The hardest part is reaching out. The hardest part is opening up about it."

That support system helped her realize her past is not a reflection of who she is.

"I mean something. I'm a somebody."

There's been debate online about whether or not the website's first amendment rights were violated by this shut down.

Congress recently took action against these websites, passing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, holding Backpage and websites like it accountable for the content posted by users.

Senator John McCain released the following statement on the closure of Backpage.com:

"The seizure of the malicious sex marketplace Backpage.com marks an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking. This builds on the historic effort in Congress to reform the law that for too long has protected websites like Backpage from being held liable for enabling the sale of young women and children. Today's action sends a strong message to Backpage and any other company facilitating online sex trafficking that they will be held accountable for these horrific crimes."

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