Craigslist, a free online classified service, responded to the criticisms from advocacy groups and lawmakers by shutting down its adult advertisement section in 2010. The website Backpage.com, however, is standing firm.

It has a financial incentive to do so, as the advertisements generate big revenue. One research group recently estimated that Backpage.com posted more than 95,000 listings for escorts and body rubs in June of this year, bringing in up to $2.45 million. That figure makes it the apparent industry leader, with the Eros.com website coming in second at around $477,000.

According to legal counsel for the website, which is owned by Village Voice Media, the site has cooperated with authorities to remove any ads involving underage models or minors. The site also maintains that it has many areas which attract legitimate users, in areas as diverse as landscaping, housecleaning, personal item sales, employment postings, roommates, and auditions. The site also argues that shutting down its service wouldn’t stop underage prostitution, or at most, would only cause the activity to move to another website.

However, prosecutors are quick to point out that security measures on the site are minimal, at best. Anyone can click through the disclaimers and land in the adult section for a specific city, which often includes graphic advertisements and section headings such as escorts or body rubs.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, “Young prostitutes off the streets and online in South Florida,” Carol Marbin Miller and Diana Moskovitz, Sept. 2, 2012

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