On February 7, Legal Momentum and pro bono counsel David Boies filed suit in Arizona and Florida against Backpage.com, a website that facilitates child sex trafficking. The lawsuits seek damages on behalf of a trafficking survivor and two service providers that provide care to trafficking victims. Service providers Florida Abolitionist, based in Orlando, and Sojourner Center, based in Phoenix, provide shelter, care, and support to trafficking victims, including individuals trafficked on Backpage. The suits have received attention from the national press, including NBC’s Nightly News, USA Today, Litigation Daily, Reuters, and the Miami Herald.
The purpose of the lawsuits is to end the child rape that Backpage facilitates. According to a 2017 report issued by the U.S. Senate, Backpage makes $9 million in profits each month from sex ads, many of which are for trafficking victims. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has stated that more than 70 percent of all child trafficking reports it receives are linked to Backpage. Florida Abolitionist said in a statement, “Florida is a hub of human trafficking, much of it on Backpage. The Florida Department of Children and Families reported that in 2015 alone, it received 1,892 reports of human trafficking.
We are proud to be a part of this lawsuit because every day we see how much suffering Backpage causes.” “I’m delighted the microscope has been focused on Backpage and the internet that has become an instrument for this modern-day slavery,” Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said of the lawsuit. Sojourner Center said that Backpage.com “Made millions of dollars in profits each year from websites that they designed and intended to be used, and that they knew were being used, for illegal sex trafficking, including of children.”
David Boies, Legal Momentum’s pro bono partner on these lawsuits, said, “The real heroes are the trafficking survivors who are courageously pursuing this. It’s a dramatic failing of our legal system that something so obviously terrible continues to flourish.” He has handled some of the most important public interest lawsuits in the nation, including successfully advocating for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The online exploitation of teen girls is the biggest human rights violation of our time. Backpage.com knowingly facilitated this evil and must be held accountable to the harmed girls and to the organizations that provide them services so they can heal and recover,” said Carol Robles-Román, Legal Momentum's President and CEO.