Site linked to dozens of crimes in RI shuts down adult ad sectio - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Site linked to dozens of crimes in RI shuts down adult ad section

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By Bianca Buono

bbuono@abc6.com

@BBuonoABC6

The word censored is now plastered across backpage.com's adult advertising section.

This comes after a senate report released Monday accused the classified website of hiding criminal activity on its pages, primarily child sex trafficking and prostitution.

"We're part of a class-action lawsuit against them so I'm very happy to hear that they're now shutdown and I hope they won't return,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Mayor Elorza is relieved because backpage.com has been the source of dozens of heinous crimes committed in Rhode Island. In March of 2015, Daniel Tejada used a zip tie to strangle a 24-year-old mother of three to death after he responded to an ad for an escort service she posted on the site.

More recently, Paul Monteiro took a 14-year-old girl from a Rhode Island group home to New Jersey to sell her for sex.

"This is a website used to exploit really vulnerable people, most often times women and often times women underage,” said Elorza.

Backpage's CEO was arrested for child sex trafficking last year, but yesterday's report revealed new disturbing details about the site. It said executives instructed website moderators to delete words like "rape" and "innocent" out of advertisements, deliberately concealing the criminal nature of several posts.

"The list of terms is chilling starting in 2010, Backpage automatically deleted words including "lolita," "teenage," "rape," "young," "little girl," "teen," "fresh," "innocent," "school girl," and even "amber alert,’” said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

Backpage has been shielded from liability because of the Federal Communications Decency Act, which has provided immunity to classified sites that host sex trafficking ads; but some argue that Backpage has gone beyond just hosting the ads and have created a marketplace that makes child sex trafficking easier.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin released a statement saying in part, "We have prosecuted a number of individuals for sex trafficking and the one commonality among those cases was the use of Backpage.com by the traffickers."

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