WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The classified ad site Backpage.com closed the adult section of its website, its operators said, hours after a Senate committee charged it with facilitating child sex trafficking.
The adult section was closed Monday to online visitors in the United States. The move came after a Senate panel released a report alleging the website concealed criminal activity by removing certain words from advertising that could have revealed prostitution and child sex trafficking. The panel's report came prior to a hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. There are conflicting reports on whether Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer will testify before the subcommittee.
"The decision of Backpage.com today to remove its Adult section in the United States will no doubt be heralded as a victory by those seeking to shutter the site, but it should be understood for what it is: an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics," the company said in a statement, adding that government scrutiny, which the statement called "unconstitutional government censorship," has made the adult section too costly to operate.
The Senate subcommittee report alleges that Backpage.com knowingly hid child sex trafficking and prostitution by deleting incriminating terms and phrases before the ads were published. The company automatically removed words including "teenage," "rape" and "young" from some submitted advertising, it said.
In a related matter, the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal of a lawsuit by three victims of sex trafficking who claimed Backpage.com encouraged sexual exploitation of minors.
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