|Owner||Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin (controlling shareholders)|
Backpage is a classified advertising website. It offers a wide variety of classified listings including automotive, jobs listings, and real estate. Backpage is the second largest classified ad listing service on the Internet in the United States after Craigslist.
Backpage contains a section for listing "adult entertainment" services. Although it officially prohibits illegal services including prostitution, the site still contains listings explicitly for sex.
Content submitted to Backpage is surveyed by an automated scan for terms related to prostitution. A team of around 100 people also oversees each entry before it is posted. Each month the team finds around 400 ads offering potentially underage sex. These are sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which in turn alerts law enforcement. Potentially illegal ads are not removed and the team does not attempt to identify whether the subjects of the listings are participating of their own free will.
50 known incidences of child sexual services being sold on the site have been recorded as of May 2011. One attorney said that Backpage was involved in the majority of trafficking or prostitution cases he had seen.
Backpage's listing of sex-related ads has prompted several advocacy groups and companies to pressure the site to remove those listings. Companies H&M, IKEA and Barnes & Noble cancelled ads for publications owned by then-Backpage owner Village Voice Media.
Over 230,000 people including 600 religious leaders, 51 attorneys general, 19 U.S. senators, over 50 non-governmental associations, musician Alicia Keys, and members of R.E.M., The Roots, and Alabama Shakes have petitioned the website to remove sexual content.
In 2012, Backpage owners Village Voice Media separated their newspaper company from Backpage, leaving it in control of shareholders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. The CEO of the new newspaper group said "Backpage has been a distraction - there's no question about it - to the core (editorial) properties."
Response from Backpage
Liz McDougall, an attorney serving as general counsel for former owners Village Voice Media said that Backpage is an "ally in the fight against human trafficking". She said that the adult services section of Backpage is closely monitored, and that shutting it down "would simply drive the trafficking underground". McDougall said that websites like Backpage who are able to monitor trafficking activity and report it to law enforcement are key in the fight against human trafficking.
McDougall said that shutting down the service on a cooperative United States-based website would only drive trafficking to underground and international websites that are more difficult to monitor, and are often outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement.
- Alexa.com (16 October 2012). "Backpage site statistics". Alexa Internet, Inc. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
- Joe Dorish (February 2011). "Backpage Vs. Craigslist". Knoji. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- Deborah Feyerick and Sheila Steffe (11 May 2011). "A lurid journey through Backpage.com". CNN. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- [Village Voice newspaper chain to split from controversial ad site http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/24/us-usa-villagevoice-backpage-idINBRE88N04020120924]
- McDougall, Liz (6 May 2012). "The Seattle Times". Retrieved May 30, 2012.