SEATTLE, July 30 (UPI) -- Three underage Washington state girls are suing the Web site Backpage.com, alleging it was complicit in their sex trafficking.
The teenage girls, two from Pierce County and one from King County, are suing Backpage.com, accusing the owners of profiting from their exploitation while doing nothing to prevent it, Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune reported Saturday.
The lawsuit alleges the girls, all runaways, were sold by their pimps through the site to "many, many adult men."
The Web site, which is owned by Village Voice Media in New York, includes "posting rules" which require ad buyers to click an on-screen button to verify that the users are 18 or older, but the lawsuit asserts that is not much of a deterrent.
"Other than requiring the poster of the ad to agree to this term by 'clicking' on the posting rules page, Backpage.com does nothing to verify the age of the escorts who appear in its prostitution ads, even though it knows that pimps are usually the ones who create the ads, or force their minor sex slaves to do so," the complaint states.
"I don't think we can stop prostitution," said Erik Bauer, one of the attorneys representing the young women. "But you don't sell kids. It's not OK to advertise and sell kids anywhere, ever. You don't do that."
Backpage.com has been in legal battles across the country, with attorneys general calling it a front for prostitution and sex trafficking of minors.
Seattle attorney Liz McDougall, general counsel for Backpage.com's corporate owners, offered sympathy for the young women, but said shutting down Backpage.com won't fix the problem.
"The commercial sexual exploitation of children is an abhorrence in our society," she said. "It is appalling as a street crime and it is appalling as an Internet crime. ... Unless the Internet is wholly shut down, the end result of the current strategy will be that our children are advertised through offshore Web sites who do not endeavor to prevent such activity."
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