Florida lawsuit targets website decried as hub for human trafficking

If you are being watched, leave now!


February 22, 2017

A Florida woman and an anti-human trafficking organization are joining the legal campaign targeting Backpage.com, the classifieds website criticized as a hub for illegal prostitution and sex trafficking of underage teens.

The federal lawsuit was filed this week by an unidentified 30-year-old woman who says she was the victim of trafficking through Backpage, and Florida Abolitionist, an Orlando anti-trafficking organization. A second lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sojourner, an Arizona nonprofit victims’ resource organization.

The lawsuits are the latest legal salvos against Backpage and its current and former executives, who are facing criminal charges of money laundering in California over accusations of human trafficking.

“The online exploitation of teen girls is the biggest human rights violation of our time,” said Carol Robles-Román, the president of Legal Momentum, a New York women’s rights nonprofit that helped file the lawsuits.

“Backpage.com knowingly facilitated this evil and must be held accountable to the harmed girls and to the organizations that provide them services so they can heal and recover.”

In preparing the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Orlando, Legal Momentum consulted with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit, which has made investigating traffickers, and providing services for victims, a priority in recent years.

“I’m delighted the microscope has been focused on Backpage and the internet that has become an instrument for this modern-day slavery,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said of the lawsuit.