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Senate Holds Backpage in Contempt of Congress in Sex Trafficking Investigation

n October 2015, Backpage and its CEO, Carl Ferrer, received a congressional subpoena from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to answer questions regarding the site’s safety protocols for ads, some of which have been connected to sex trafficking involving minors. Both parties, however, refused to cooperate in the lawmakers’ investigation, citing First Amendment protections.

“The contempt that Backpage has shown for our bipartisan investigation has now been met with the unanimous contempt of the full U.S. Senate,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member. “This historic vote makes a clear statement — we are fully committed to getting to the bottom of this company’s business practices and policies for preventing the trafficking of children, and we will get these answers.”

Backpage, an online advertising site, nets more than 80 percent of all revenue made from online commercial sex advertising in the United States. At least some of that revenue may be made from content advertising child sex trafficking. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Backpage is involved in at least 71 percent of the suspected child trafficking reports the organization receives from its CyberTipline.

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