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Former Underage Prostitute Sold on Backpage.com: ‘Like Going Back to Slave Times’

The classified advertising website Backpage.com makes approximately $22 million a year from escort ads, and a portion of those ads are selling victims of human trafficking. Nicholas Kristof gave a voice to one of those victims in an op-ed for the New York Times, where he once again made the case for the website’s closure.

As a minor, ‘Alissa’ was trafficked by pimps on Backpage.com. Alissa was her street name; she told Kristof she didn’t want to use her real name for fear Village Voice Media, the owner of Backpage.com, would retaliate. And VVM has in the past used the editorial pages of their newspapers, including the LA Weekly, to mock critics.

Kristof acknowledges that sex trafficking is a complicated issue, that many of the prostitution ads on Backpage.com are placed by adult women of their own volition, and that simply closing down the site won’t make sex slavery go away. And sex workers have come forward to argue that closing Backpage.com would make prostitution more dangerous, not less.

But to a victim like Alissa, providing any forum for trafficking is unacceptable. “For a Web site like Backpage to make $22 million off our backs, it’s like going back to slave times.” she told Kristoff.

(Photo: Ashley Gilbertson/VII / The New York Times)

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