JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has begun the process of investigating the online advertising website Backpage, using a new unit in his office tasked with prosecuting human traffickers under the state’s consumer protection laws.
Hawley told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that evidence already points to Backpage and its affiliates knowingly participating in illegal trafficking activity and concealing it, including findings from a U.S. Senate committee, which examined 1.1 million pages of documents supplied by the company.
Spearheaded by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the probe culminated in a scathing report in January that alleges the site automatically filters out any words in ads that indicate the site was offering sex with minors.
Critics of the site’s practices say that it’s become a hub for commercial sex exploitation, with traffickers using it to sell sex through the “adult” sections, which once allowed users to advertise escort services, strip clubs, and “adult jobs.”
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