Underage sex trade still flourishing online By Amber Lyon and Steve Turnham, CNN January 20, 2011
Editor’s note: Hundreds of thousands of girls under the age of 18 are sold as sex slaves in the U.S. In a yearlong investigation, CNN’s Amber Lyon reveals the devastating realities of the business of underage sex. Don’t miss CNN Presents “Selling the Girl Next Door” this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.
Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN)….STORY HIGHLIGHTS
* Selena, 13, was sold for sex on backpage.com
* Advocacy groups have accused the website of facilitating the trafficking of underage girls
* Neither backpage.com nor its owner would comment on those accusations….
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are at least 100,000 underage girls being sex trafficked in America today. That’s a conservative estimate based on what little hard data currently exists; NCMEC believes the real number could be as high as 300,000.
Most are runaways, suffering from psychological problems or drug dependence, picked up and sold by pimps for staggering profits. According to studies, pimps can make up to half a million dollars a year, and they frequently prey on the young and the vulnerable.
The pimps ply their trade on the web, the new marketplace for underage sex trafficking. Last year, victims’ advocates called the internet classified site Craigslist’s Adult Service Section the “Walmart of child sex trafficking.”
CNN investigated Craigslist, posting an ad and receiving numerous calls from men seeking sex. That investigation helped spark a national conversation and outrage, as well as a call from 17 attorneys general around the country for Craigslist to shut down its adult services section.
But when Craigslist shut down its section, the escort ads migrated to another site, backpage.com. We decided to investigate Backpage after advocacy groups accused the website, which is owned by the Village Voice Media Group, of facilitating the trafficking of underage girls.
According to the AIM Group, an internet consulting firm, Backpage’s escort site earned an estimated $20 million in 2010. Its profits soared after Craigslist decided to pull the plug on its adult services section….Last fall, Backpage hired internet security advisor Hemu Nigam to implement “a holistic plan centered around preventing criminal activity on our site.” We wanted to know what that “holistic plan” was, but Nigam wouldn’t talk to us either.
Full nudity appears to have disappeared from the site, but suspect ads with tag lines such as “Daddy’s Little Girl” are common.