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The online classified ad company “Backpage,” however, has become the Walmart of sex trafficking and prostitution. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) told a recent Senate subcommittee that 71 percent of all suspected child sex trafficking cases have a link to Backpage. As of 2014, Backpage had an EBITDA margin (measure of profitability) of 82 percent, compared with a 9.3 percent average for similar online service companies. Backpage has been accused by several advocacy groups—including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Shared Hope, and Polaris—of actively assisting pimps by editing ads to avoid detection from law enforcement while increasing their customer base. On March 17, the Senate held Backpage in contempt for refusing to comply with their subpoena. Denying they are co-conspirators, Backpage maintains they merely provide a forum for free speech in the form of advertising.


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