Police say website is used heavily to promote child sex trafficking. Owner says site helpful in fighting it.
The Minneapolis City Council gave final approval Friday to a resolution that calls for the closure of the controversial adult section of classified ads on the website Backpage.com.
Minneapolis police have said that all 20 child sex trafficking cases it has investigated so far this year involved juveniles advertised on Backpage.
Posters on Backpage can reach a broad audience by publishing ads, some of which are listed under "escorts" and "body rubs" and which often are accompanied by photos of scantily dressed girls and women.
In a statement Friday, Mayor R.T. Rybak said he was pleased that the council was joining other groups, including the St. Paul City Council, in asking for the adult section's demise.
"When I published the Twin Cities Reader in the 1990s, we turned down ads from Backpage.com because we refused to participate in the trafficking of women and children. It cost us a lot of money, but it was the right thing to do," Rybak said.
"Ending sex trafficking is a national priority, and Minneapolis police and city attorneys are doing incredible work to fight it right here."
Backpage is owned and operated by Village Voice Media, which also owns several alternative weekly papers, including City Pages in the Twin Cities.
Liz McDougall, Village Voice Media's general counsel, said earlier this month that targeting the site has lately been "a politically popular thing to do."
But she said the company works on many levels to stop trafficking on the site and cooperates regularly with police. If the section of the site was shut down, she argued, those operations would move offshore, where U.S. officials wouldn't be able to recover the digital and financial clues to make arrests and conduct investigations.
The FBI identifies Minneapolis as one of 13 cities with a large child prostitution concentration.
In addition to approving the Backpage resolution Friday, the council also approved amending the city's fiscal year 2013 federal legislative agenda to support legislation that works to end the sexual exploitation of minors by building a system that responds to their needs.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @stribnorfleet