PHOENIX (AP) — Nearly 80 percent of the ads posted on the adult-services section of the classified website Backpage.com are for prostitutes, according to an Arizona State University research project.
The Arizona Republic reports (http://bit.ly/Oomo1p) the newly released study shows that researchers found more than 900 advertisements offering sex or prostitution in Phoenix, and nearly 650 ads offering sex or prostitution were posted in Philadelphia during the week of the study.
The research project drew on the expertise of law-enforcement officers to identify prostitution ads based on certain commonly used words and phrases and to identify minors based on factors including the girls' development.
The researchers compared ads for services offered in Phoenix and Philadelphia between May 12 and May 20, offering the first detailed glimpse at content on the classified site that has spawned critics around the country who accuse the site's parent company, Village Voice Media, of Phoenix, of profiting off prostitution ads and exploiting women and young girls.
An attorney for Village Voice Media, an alternative-weekly conglomerate that includes the Phoenix New Times, questioned how the researchers determined what ads were for prostitution and the ages of girls and women advertised on the site.
"If an experienced Phoenix police vice/ lieutenant, or any other law-enforcement agent or person, knows of accurate methods to identify ads for illegal adult activity, including what specific language and acronyms in ads mean and especially how to identify persons under age 18 (minors), I would hope that he or she would share that information with Backpage.com and all other online service providers who monitor their services to help prevent illegal and exploitative activity," Liz McDougall, an attorney representing Village Voice Media, wrote in an email.
The study comes as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez recently called for state lawmakers to change its state's outdated prostitution laws after a judge cleared two professors in New Mexico of running a prostitution-linked website. Experts said state laws, like those in New Mexico, do not address prostitution via the Internet.
In New Mexico, a retired professor and former college administrator were accused in what police described as an extensive multistate, online prostitution ring. But the two were cleared after a judge ruled that state law said the website they operated didn't constitute a "house of prostitution," even though investigators said the men used the site to recruit prostitutes and promote prostitution.
Backpage has come under attack from critics around the country who have taken steps that include staging protests in Phoenix and New York, drafting legislation in Washington state to hold the company criminally liable for promoting commercial sex trafficking and getting attorneys general from 46 states, including Arizona, to sign a letter asking the company to ensure it enforces policies that prevent illegal activity on the site.
Last month, a federal judge in Washington approved Backpage's request for an injunction to prevent the legislation from taking effect.
Information from: The Arizona Republic,Tags: