July 13, 2017

Feinstein Urges Justice Department to Investigate Backpage.com

Washington—In light of Washington Post reporting indicating that Backpage.com hired an overseas company to solicit commercial sex advertisements for its website, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) this week urged the Justice Department to investigate the website and its owners.

Feinstein wrote, “I have long called for a federal investigation into Backpage.com. Those who knowingly advertise minors for commercial sex must be held accountable. Indeed, Congress made clear that such persons should be held accountable by enacting legislation in 2015 to enable the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute Internet sites that knowingly advertise children for sex. See 18 U.S.C. §1591(a)(1).”

Text of the letter follows:

July 12, 2017

The Honorable Jefferson B. Sessions III 
Attorney General 
U.S. Department of Justice 
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20530-0001             

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Backpage.com hired an overseas company to aggressively solicit sex-related advertisements. That is inexcusable. I urge you to thoroughly investigate the claims made in the article to determine whether federal charges are appropriate.

I have long called for a federal investigation into Backpage.com. Those who knowingly advertise minors for commercial sex must be held accountable. Indeed, Congress made clear that such persons should be held accountable by enacting legislation in 2015 to enable the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute Internet sites that knowingly advertise children for sex. See 18 U.S.C. §1591(a)(1).

Despite the enactment of this provision, it appears—according to the article—that the advertisement of minors for commercial sex continued to occur on Backpage.com. These revelations are deeply concerning, particularly since earlier this year, the Senate             Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ found there was evidence that Backpage.com facilitated online sex trafficking.

I strongly believe that online sex trafficking cannot be prevented without strict federal enforcement. I urge you to investigate the new allegations against Backpage.com, and ask that you report to me quickly what steps are being taken to do so.  Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein

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