The mother of a murdered US teenager on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Backpage.com, claiming her daughter was killed because she had been sold for sex on the huge classified advertising Web site.
Backpage has been hit by lawsuits saying it promotes trafficking in its ads, offering children for commercial sex, but this is believed to be the first case in the US linking Backpage to trafficking and a specific murder.
Each year, about 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the US, according to the US Department of Justice.
Yvonne Ambrose filed the civil lawsuit against Backpage in an Illinois state court after her daughter Desiree Robinson was murdered last year in a Chicago suburb.
Robinson had been repeatedly advertised for sex on Backpage, the lawsuit said.
The teen had been missing for several weeks when she was found dead on Christmas Eve.
Antonio Rosales, 32, is charged with Robinson’s murder and has pleaded not guilty.
The teen had been with Rosales the night she died, said Gina Arquilla DeBoni, Ambrose’s attorney.
The lawsuit, which seeks minimum monetary damages of US$50,000, claims Backpage knew it was facilitating sex trafficking, DeBoni said.
The second-largest US online classified ad service after Craigslist, Backpage has faced scrutiny from the US Senate over allegations that it facilitates sex trafficking, especially of children.
A Senate report earlier this year found that Backpage removed words that indicated a person being advertised was a child, such as “little girl” and “amber alert” and would post sanitized ads.
The company has repeatedly triumphed in court by arguing it is hosting content, not creating it, and is protected from liability by a federal law that protects free speech, the Communications Decency Act.
DeBoni said this is believed to be the first case linking Backpage to sex trafficking and a murder.
“It highlights just how dangerous Backpage’s actions are,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Backpage did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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