[ AD HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THIS STORY ]
Attorneys general in 45 states, including Hawaii, are asking a classified ads website to explain how it handles postings for adult services.
The officials said in a letter to Backpage.com on Wednesday that hundreds of ads on the site are for prostitution, and the site attracts people seeking to exploit minors.
They want Backpage.com to prove it is monitoring the site to prevent illegal activity and to willingly provide information in lieu of a subpoena.
The attorneys general ask that Backpage.com describe in detail how many advertisements in its adult section and subsections have been submitted since Sept. 1, 2010, how many of those ads were individually screened, how many were rejected and how many were removed after being discovered to be for illegal services.
In one case, teenage girls say they were threatened and extorted by two adults who marketed them on Backpage.com. One of the adults rented a hotel room and forced the girls to have sex with men who responded to the online ads, according to a news release from the Illinois attorney general’s office. Backpage.com charges $1 and up for such ads.
Carl Ferrer, a spokesman for Backpage owner Village Voice Media, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Craigslist closed its adult services section last year after attorneys general and others raised concerns it could not effectively screen out illegal ads.