The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says more than 71% of child sex trafficking reports are connected to ads on Backpage.com. Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s resolution has received unanimous support in the U.S. Senate to hold the company in contempt for failing to honor two subpoenas issued by a Senate committee. The subpoenas call for information on Backpage’s business practices and policies for preventing the trafficking of children.
McCaskill’s measure also cleared the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs by a unanimous vote last month. The Senate’s Legal Counsel can now bring a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to ask the court to directly order compliance with the subpoena.
“I find it shocking that a company would refuse a lawful subpoena of the U.S. Senate, would ignore a lawful subpoena of the U.S. Senate. It’s particularly outrageous give that Backpage has already admitted that serious criminal activity, including sex trafficking of children, occurs on its site,” said McCaskill.
“It’s refused to willingly cooperate. It has refused two legitimate and dually-authorized subpoenas asking for information at the heart of the investigation concerning Backpage.”
McCaskill and Ohio U.S. Senator Rob Portman, the panel’s Republican Chairman, led a Senate hearing in November to target online sex trafficking, particularly trafficking of children, and demanded answers from Backpage. Carl Ferrer, Chief Executive Officer of Backpage, failed to obey a subpoena compelling his attendance at that hearing.
“If we ignore Backpage’s refusal, what does that say to companies in the future, where we need information in order to do our job? That you can give the back of your hand to the U.S. Senate and there will be no consequences? Obviously that’s a slippery slope I don’t think we should go down,” said McCaskill.
The last time the Senate has held anyone in contempt was in 1995.