Report Links Backpage.com To Sex Trafficking In Nashville
by Kim Gebbia
NASHVILLE, Tenn- Wednesday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day and a new report released revealed a link between the web site Backpage.com and the child sex trade in Nashville.
Backpage is a site where locals can buy blenders, couches and cars, but over in the adult section visitors can find girls for sale that are just a click or a phone call away.
It's why Backapge is the sole subject of a new human trafficking report by Operation Broken Silence and End Slavery Tennessee.
Lyndsy Anton, an End Slavery Tennessee Volunteer said the purpose of the project was "to expose the link between the online sex industry and human trafficking in Tennessee."
Anton and others spent three months combing through every single ad, more than 2,000 in Nashville, on the escort section of Backpage.
What they found were girls photographed in an anonymous hotel room advertised as 'sexy and 18.' Many of the girls look younger than 18 and there is no one checking to see if they are in fact legal.
"I think it's easier for them to believe that these girls are all independent, doing it on their own and legal all 18 and they would rather not take it to the place that there are minors being trafficked on their web site," said Anton.
The Backpage report also shows where these girls are coming from. They recorded 136 area codes on ads, 41% were from Tennessee.
"About 54- 55% of those area codes were not from Tennessee the biggest state they were coming from was Georgia, because Georgia is a huge sex trafficking hub," said Anton.
They also decoded the ads for the going rate in Nashville. When the person posting it used key words like 'donations accepted, roses or seashells' to suggest the price for sex. The average cost is around $200.
Anton said the report reveals what's really going on in the adult section of Backpage, who has yet to buckle to pressure to pull it down. Last summer, while under pressure from the National Association of Attorneys General they stated "Backpage.com is a legal business and operates its web site in accordance with all applicable laws. Censorship will not create public safety nor will it ride the world of exploitation."
For sex trafficking advocates it's not about legality, but responsibility. They believe ending the adult section will make it that much harder for girls to be trafficked in Tennessee.
"The more we close down, the more they are going to have to look for other venues that are not as private as online to do their business and they'll get caught more," Anton said.
A few years ago, Craiglist was under fire for the same problem in their adult escort section. After significant pressure from dozens of states, they did decide to end an escort category and these advocates are hoping this report will help them get the same results with Backpage.
The web site did not respond to NewsChannel 5's request for comment about the report released Wednesday.