THE BLOG

Teens Sold as Sex Slaves on Craigslist

05/19/2010 01:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Washington, D.C. -- According to Congressional estimates, everyday 100,000 children (that is under the age of 17) in the United States are being sold, bartered and bought for sex.

Outside of the enterprising Mexican drug cartels who traffic children for sex into this country -- using the same routes they use to smuggle weapons and drugs, their American counterparts (a bevy of home grown pimps), are using a far more sophisticated medium -- the Internet -- to sell underage, disadvantaged, and runaway children as sex slaves.

It gets worse. U.S. online services such as Craigslist have become vehicles for carrying out this heinous crime. According to an article published in the "New York Times" last month :

Craigslist, one of the most popular Web sites in the United States, is on track to increase its revenue 22 percent this year, largely from its controversial sex advertisements. That financial success is reviving scrutiny from law-enforcement officials who say the ads are still being used for illegal ends.

The ads, many of which blatantly advertise prostitution, expect to bring $36 million this year, according to a new projection of Craigslist's income. That is three times the revenue in last year's projection.

Law-enforcement officials have been fighting a mostly losing battle to get Craigslist to rein in the sex ads. At the same time, officials of organizations that oppose human trafficking say the site remains the biggest online hub for selling women against their will.

Last week, in the latest example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 14 members of the Gambino crime family on charges of, among other things, selling the sexual services of girls between the ages 15 to 19 on Craigslist.

The company that provided the revenue projection, the Advanced Interactive Media Group, has been preparing such analyses since 2003. Followers of Craigslist consider AIM's work to be the most comprehensive estimates of the fiercely private company's finances. The estimate was calculated based on the number of sex ads counted on Craigslist over the month of February and the fees for posting such ads -- $10 initially and $5 for repeat postings.

James Buckmaster, Craigslist's chief executive, said in an e-mail message that the site would not confirm the figures because it is private and does not discuss its finances. Of the sex ads, he wrote, "Of the thousands of U.S. venues that carry adult service ads, including venues operated by some of the largest and best known companies in the U.S., Craigslist has done the best and most responsible job of combating child exploitation and human trafficking.

Mr. Buckmaster was referring to alternative newspapers, phone directories and sex Web sites that carry ads for prostitution, although authorities say that Craigslist is the largest place for such ads.

Craigslist, based in San Francisco, had seemed to put the conflict over its sex ads to rest. Attorneys general in 40 states, including New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut, investigated the company for facilitating criminal activity, after a wave of publicity about prostitution and violent crimes linked to the site.

Although Craigslist has continually argued that the Communications Decency Act against liability for what its users' posts legally protects it -- an analysis that judges and legal experts generally agree with -- it promised last May to begin manually monitoring these posts for illegal activity.

So far, it has not kept its promise. I say it is time to pull the plug. If as Americans we believe that our Constitution and more specifically, the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence of the United States is valid and that:

..."All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness"...

Then as a Nation and civilized society, we must also act when:

... "A long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism"...

Moreover, "it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security".

It is unacceptable that in a civilized and progressive society such as the United States of America that a business using a website, newspaper, radio, television, or any other form of mass communication can facilitate the selling, buying and exploitation of children for sex at the click of a button and more importantly, reap financial benefits.