A mother described the chilling moment she found an online advertisement offering sex with her 13-year-old daughter on a classifieds website.
Kubiiki Pride, from Atlanta, Georgia, found her daughter, identified as MA, on the escorts section of Backpage.com nine months after she disappeared.
The girl, whose story was told in the documentary I Am Jane Doe, sneaked out of the house one night to go to an end-of-school party, but ended up being taken by a female trafficker, thinking the woman was going to help bring her home.
After 270 days, Pride started looking online and said she was scrolling through Backpage.com when she came across her daughter’s ad.
‘It was the third link from the top. It had stars and hearts, and it said young and new,’ she explained.
Something about the stars and hearts caught her attention, she said, and she clicked it to find explicit photos of her daughter.
The photos showed her daughter wearing only underwear and posing provocatively.
‘I called and asked to purchase the services myself,’ she said.
When her daughter was returned to her, she said she was addicted to drugs and had been horribly abused.
‘My daughter was stabbed and burned, her head shaved, and she was beaten,’ she said.
She ran away two more times, both times being returned to her mother.
‘I said why are you running away?’ Pride said in the documentary while choking back tears.
‘And she said, “Well mom I have to go and get these pills.”‘
The woman who trafficked MA was caught and sentenced to five years in prison in 2010, but the advertisement featuring explicit photos of the teen remained online.
But that wasn’t enough.
‘Once I told her about all the pain and suffering I went through and that I wanted revenge, she also did,’ MA said in the documentary.
In 2011 Pride sued Backpage.com – arguing the website facilitated child sex trafficking – but her case was dismissed under 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The act states that a website providing a service can’t be held accountable as the ‘publisher’ for anything users post or advertise on it.
Backpage is the largest online classified site in the United States besides craigslist, and is home to 80 per cent of the human trafficking advertisements in the country.
Pride and her daughter said they had used the website before to buy things like couches, televisions and video games, and were shocked to find out that children’s bodies could be sold.
‘I just never knew there were humans for sale,’ Pride said.
Not only was Backpage not held responsible for what happened to MA, they refused to remove the photos of the 13-year-old.
‘I asked them to take photos of my daughter down,’ she said. ‘And they didn’t do so, I was just so angry.’
The law that protected them, Pride explained, was originally interpreted to provide an online safe haven, but ended up becoming a loophole which these websites could use to justify the sale of children.
Pride said that broke her heart and infuriated her.
‘This company of adults made the decision to post these pictures without even taking the time to find out if they were children,’ Pride said.
Now 22, MA said she is still having to come to terms to what happened with her.
Her mom said that her little girl who was precocious, nosy and opinionated is now broken, but still full of love.
Sex trafficking is something that impacts at least 150,000 young people in the United States, many of who are brutally raped, abused and unable to return to a normal way of life.
Senate alleges that Backpage has been systematically altering its ads after finding that emails that told users to remove words such as ‘daddy’s girl,’ ‘cheerleader,’ ‘teenager,’ and ‘amber alert.’
Backpage has denied the allegations and argued it has been a victim of censorship and shouldn’t be held accountable.
CEO Carl Ferrer, 55, and former owners James Larkin, 67, and Michael Lacey, 68, were not charged in a separate case for pimping charges after a California judge ruled against it on free speech grounds.
Prosecutors have alleged that more than 90 per cent of Backpage’s revenue — millions of dollars each month — comes from adult escort ads that use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.
The website shut down its Adult section in January, but Backpage executives refused to testify during a hearing that same month – pleading the fifth.
‘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,’ they said in a statement.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Abigail Miller