Three minor girls file lawsuit against Backpage.com, allege site forced them into underage prostitution (U.S.)

Posted on July 30, 2012

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TACOMAThe lawsuit was filed in Pierce County Superior Court July 30A lawsuit was filed Monday in Pierce County Superior Court on behalf of three teenage girls against Backpage.com. The lawsuit contends the girls were advertised and sold as prostitutes for the website’s “escort” service.

Two of the girls were 13 years old and the other girl was 15 years old at the time of the alleged incidents. The girls are now 17 and 15 years old.

Backpage.com is owned by Village Voice Media who owns the Seattle Weekly, among other alternative publications nationwide.

The three girls had run away from their respective homes when they became involved with “professional adult pimps who posted advertisements for the girls on the Backpage.com escort website,” the lawsuit states and said that Backpage.com’s revenue for escort advertising on its site is $20 million annually.

According to court documents, hundreds of customers replied to the ads and the girls said they were raped multiple times by adults.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that Backpage.com knew the website was being used for the online prostitution of underage girls and that the site generated “millions of dollars” every month.

Baruti Hopson, who is currently in for charges stemming from prostituting minor girls, is specifically named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit states that Hopson was pimping one of the underage girls who filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit goes on to state that Backpage.com routinely colludes with pimps to advertise their prostitution services on the website. It also states that Backpage.com does not have any stringent policies in place to verify that the women advertised on the site are at least 18 years of age.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Gov. Christine Gregoire have each worked to enact legislation and bring attention to the issue of underage sex trafficking.

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