Three teen girls from Washington State are suing Backpage.com for enabling and profiting from sex trafficking, saying the site did nothing to prevent their exploitation.
According to The Tacoma News-Tribune, the girls launched their lawsuit on Friday against the popular classified ads website.
“I don’t think we can stop prostitution,” said lawyer Erik Bauer, according to the News-Tribune. “But you don’t sell kids. It’s not OK to advertise and sell kids anywhere, ever. You don’t do that.”
The girls – ages 13 to 15 – say pimps preyed upon them after they ran away from home, forcing them to become prostitutes.
Their photos appeared on Backpage.com under the escort services section. Court records say pimps advertised one girl as the “80 dollar day special.”
The lawsuit says the website did nothing to prevent the girls’ underage prostitution.
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Lawyers for Backpage – owned by Village Voice Media in New York – countered that federal law prohibits the lawsuit, The Associated Press reported.
Backpage is facing numerous accusations that sex traffickers use its escort and adult services section.
Washington State passed a law earlier this year that would have forced websites to verify ages of people in sex listings.
However, on Friday, a judge granted a temporary injunction of the law to hear counter-arguments, the AP said.
The law was to take effect in June.
“Rather than fight the selling of children through responsible business practices, Backpage has chosen to fight in our courts those who battle human trafficking,” Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said, the AP reported. “While they are entitled to do that, we will do all that is within our power to see that they fail.”
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