Based on our [twenty-eight] years of experience as the nation's clearinghouse on
missing and exploited children, NCMEC believes that Backpage’s business
model facilitates the sexual exploitation of children. The steps taken by
Backpage in the past year and a half have fallen short in addressing the problem
of children being sold for sex via their site. 43
Backpage is just one example44 of an ISP45 that offers “adult services” on its website.
These ISPs provide a forum where individuals can post ads and pimps are known to post ads for
sexually oriented services, such as escorts and strippers under the category “adult
entertainment.” 46 Liz McDougall, attorney for Backpage, now owned by the corporation Village
Voice Media, 47 states that Backpage is “a site where any illegal activity is unwelcome. Human
trafficking, child sexual exploitation, and illegal prostitution.” 48 Yet it is remarkably clear that
the adult services section of Backpage is being used for just such activity. In reality, the posting
of coded solicitations for illegal sex is a regular occurrence in the adult entertainment section on
services, including “exchanging sexual favors for money or other valuable consideration,” 50 ads
appearing in these sections include titles that are coded solicitations for sex. 51 Furthermore,
43 Letter from John D. Ryan, supra note 41.
44 Some ISPs, such as Backpage.com and previously Craigslist, offer adult service sections in addition to ads for other services and
goods, such as job postings, used car sales, and garage sale listings. See, e.g., BACKPAGE, http://indianapolis.backpage.com/ (last
visited Oct. 10, 2013); CRAIGSLIST, http://indianapolis.craigslist.org/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2013). Other ISPs, such as Escortdater.com,
Erosads.com, and The Erotic Review, are designed to advertise only adult services. See, e.g., ESCORT DATER,
http://www.escortdater.com/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2013); EROS GUIDE, http://www.eros-guide.com/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2013); THE
EROTIC REVIEW, http://www.theeroticreview.com/main.asp (last visited Oct. 10, 2013).
45 The terms “Internet Service Provider” (“ISP”) and “interactive computer service” are used to mean a host for internet postings such
as Yahoo!, Facebook, or Backpage, not a provider of Internet service to a household or business such as Comcast or Brighthouse. See,
e.g., Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 419 (5th Cir. 2008); Chi. Lawyers’ Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. v. Craigslist,
Inc., 519 F.3d 666, 668 (7th Cir. 2008); see infra Section V.
46 BACKPAGE, supra note 44.
47 Until recently, Backpage operated under the umbrella of an alternative news source, Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC. Keach
Hagey, Village Voice Owner Splits Up, WALL ST. J. (Sept. 24, 2012),
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390444083304578014460623073072. In September 2012, Village Voice Media
separated its print newspapers from its controversial online ad site because its profits and reputation were being diminished by its
connection to Backpage. Id. Under this new deal, former Village Voice Media executives Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin now operate
Backpage as a separate entity. Id.; Chris Francescani & Nadia Damouni, Village Voice Newspaper Chain to Split from Controversial
Ad Site, REUTERS (Sept. 24, 2012), http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/24/us-usa-villagevoice-backpage-idINBRE88N04020120924.
Prior to its separation from Backpage, Village Voice Media Holdings had been suffering from the actions of Backpage.com, as
advertiser after advertiser pulled their ads from the Village Voice Media Holding’s flagship publication, the Village Voice. Id. Pfizer,
“American Airlines, Best Buy, AT&T, Ikea, H&M, IHOP, Macy's and the Miami Dolphins professional football team have all
stopped advertising in VVM publications in recent months.” Id. Scott Tobias, the CEO of Voice Media Group (the new entity that
includes the former Village Voice Media Holdings minus Backpage.com), said of the split, “Backpage has been a distraction—there’s
no question about it—to the core (editorial) properties.” Id. Village Voice felt pressured to jettison Backpage in order to avoid further
deterioration of their profits and reputation. Id.
48 Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees: Backpage.com Refuses to Shut down Adult Classifieds (CNN television broadcast May 10, 2012),
transcript available at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1205/10/acd.02.html.
49 Dave Gibson, Prostitution: Has Backpage.com Picked up Where Craigslist Left off?, EXAMINER.COM (Mar. 16, 2011),
http://www.examiner.com/article/prostitution-has-backpage-com-picked-up-where-craigslist-left-off; infra note 176.
51 Hands Do Wn The Be$t << (((((( *★* ..M¥ BÕÐŸ ÂLL ÕV€R ¥ÕUR BÕÐŸ BÂB¥..*★* ))))) – 23, BACKPAGE (Jul. 16, 2012,
4: 19 PM), http://indianapolis.Backpage.com/FemaleEscorts/hands-down-the-bet-andltandlt-m-b-ll-vr-ur-b-bb-23/6386627; Sexy Leah
** 40 Kiss Special** In Town For a Couple Nights Only— 26, BACKPAGE (Jul. 15, 2012, 11:28 PM),