|Area served||700+ cities|
|Owner||Atlantische Bedrijven CV,
Former Owner - Village Voice Media
|Available in||English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Norse, Russian, Chinese, Finnish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, and Turkish|
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.
In the early 2000’s the internet, particularly the website Craigslist, was destroying the classified advertising business in newspapers nationwide. Classified advertising in daily newspapers as well as weekly alternatives, suburban papers and community papers was moving to the free adverting model of Craigslist and other smaller websites. In 2004, in response to this phenomenon, New Times Media (later to be known as Village Voice Media) a publisher of eleven alternative newsweeklies, launched a free classified website called backpage.com. The foundation and traditions of free classified advertising and free circulation were part of the fundamentals of the alternative newsweeklies dating back to 1971. The Chicago Reader and the Phoenix New Times were pioneers in these operating philosophies.
Backpage soon became the second largest online classified site in the U.S. The site included all the various categories found in newspaper classified sections including those that were unique to and part of the first amendment driven traditions of most alternative weeklies. These included personals (including adult oriented personal ads), adult services, musicians and “New Age” services.
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. At least one member of 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.
The general counsel for National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has said, “Backpage’s reporting is not conducted in good faith.” She further pointed out that the service does not remove ads when parents report their children are being sold on the site.
Fifty 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 canceled 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, (which then consisted of eleven weekly alternative newspapers and their affiliated web properties) from Backpage, leaving Backpage in control of shareholders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. Executives for the spinoff holding company, called Voice Media Group (VMG) and based in Denver, raised "some money from private investors" in order to purchase the newspapers.
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.
Backpage.com v. McKenna, et al.
In March 2012, Washington enacted a law (SB 6251) which sought to negate the immunity afforded by 47 USC 230 to online providers of third-party content. The law would have made providers of third-party online content criminally liable for any crimes related to a minor committed in Washington State.
In June of that same year, Backpage.com and the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of the Internet Archive filed a motion against Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna on the grounds that SB 6251 violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and First and Fifth Amendments.
Later that month, United States District Judge Ricardo Martinez, granted Backpage a temporary restraining order pending the outcome of the suit on the grounds that Backpage was likely to win its case against McKenna. The case ended the following month when Judge Martinez decided that Backpage and the Internet Archive were to be awarded permanent injunctive relief and $200,000 in attorney's fees from the Office of the Attorney General.
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- "Judgment in a Civil Case: Backpage.com, LLC and The Internet Archive v. Rob McKenna, Attorney General of the State of Washington, et al." (PDF). United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. 2012-12-10. Case Number C12-954RSM, Document 87. Retrieved 2014-05-18.