NASHVILLE — Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper and 45 other attorneys general across the country are urging Backpage.com, an online classified ad site, to get more aggressive in stopping ads promoting human sex trafficking, especially those that could involve minors.
In a letter to the website’s lawyers, released publicly today, the attorneys general said that Backpage.com claims it has strict policies to prevent illegal activity.
Yet, officials said in their news release, the chief legal officers of several states have found “hundreds of ads” on Backpage.com’s regional sites “that are clearly for illegal services.”
The letter states the hub for illegal sex ads is a magnet for those seeking to exploit minors and points to more than 50 cases in 22 states over three years involving the trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors through Backpage.com.
Tennessee has had “numerous instances” of suspected human sex trafficking, generally with arrests from one end of the state to the other in the past few years, according to Cooper’s office.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation noted in a joint study with Vanderbilt’s Center for Community Studies that “human trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously believed possible.”
The May 2011 study said Tennessee is attractive to traffickers because of its geographic location and closeness to interstates and larger cities.