Senate Will Put Backpage Contempt to Vote

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Senate will vote on whether to hold Backpage.com in contempt for keeping mum on how the classifieds website screens for sex traffickers.
     Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced the plan for a vote Wednesday in revealing a report filed by a bipartisan committee that met in November 2015.
     The 196-page report includes gruesome details from victims who were bought and sold via Backpage ads. One of these victims was a minor who was forced to “have sex with approximately 15 different men in one encounter where she was threatened with a handgun,” the report states.
     When representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children testified about sex trafficking at the November meeting, “they told us that 71 percent of all suspected sex trafficking reports, this is children sex trafficking, has a connection and a link to Backpage.com,” Portman said in a statement.
     The contempt charge threatened against Backpage stems from its failure to adequately disclose how it combats and prevents traffickers from advertising on its site, Portman’s office says.
     Specifically, Backpage “has had a practice of editing advertisements before they are posted by deleting certain words and phrases,” but the company refused to turn over documents related to the practice, according to the senator’s statement.
     Backpage has questioned the government’s authority to access its records, telling NBC News that it “looks forward to a proper consideration of these important First Amendment constitutional issues by the judiciary – the branch of government charged with protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
     In addition to its troubles with Congress, Backpage also faces several civil lawsuits filed by sex-trafficking victims.
     In one such lawsuits, three teenagers say they were prostituted on the website out of Olympia, Wash.
     Federal prosecutors brought another case against a former New York City police officer they say ran a prostitution ring via Backpage.
     NBC notes that “Senate approval would mark the first time in two decades the chamber has voted to hold someone in contempt.”

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