Regarding the July 15 editorial “Protect children first”:
The editorial board doesn’t know the first thing about how Congress should fight child sex trafficking on the Internet. Jumping on the ever-popular bandwagon to vilify Backpage.com is just avoiding hard decisions.
The editorial claimed that “experts” have long alleged that Backpage ads have facilitated human trafficking, citing an estimate by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that 73 percent of the 10,000 child-trafficking reports it receives annually involve Backpage. As a human-trafficking expert witness who has been retained or testified for criminal, defense and civil human trafficking cases across the United States, including one upcoming case where I will testify in favor of Backpage.com, I know there is no evidence that Backpage actually facilitates sex trafficking. The majority of child sex-trafficking reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children involve Backpage because the website is most frequently used by law enforcement and victim-service providers as a catalyst for arrests and rescues. It is a tool for law enforcement, not a hindrance.
While there is no data to indicate that shutting down Backpage will have any effect on the prevalence of sex trafficking on the Internet, anecdotes suggest there is a high likelihood of displacement if we continue to vilify Backpage. Displacing Backpage ads to websites based offshore that undoubtedly would be less cooperative with law enforcement would create new barriers for anti-trafficking advocates. This is not how Congress should fight sex trafficking on the Internet.
Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, Montclair