80th Annual Meeting

WHEREAS, human trafficking remains a daunting challenge to governments and communities across America and the world; and

WHEREAS, according to studies by the University of Pennsylvania and Shared Hope International, children numbering in the hundreds of thousands are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation in cities throughout America; and

WHEREAS, human trafficking victims are often not identified as trafficking victims or are often mischaracterized as criminal offenders; and

WHEREAS, among those are victims brought into the United States under false pretenses, and coerced into commercial sexual exploitation; and

WHEREAS, according to the Children Community Intervention Project, here in the United States, the average age of first exploitation through prostitution is 13, and 75 percent of minors exploited through prostitution have a pimp; and

WHEREAS, the advent of the Internet has made the sex trafficking of minors easier for those who sell children for sex; and

WHEREAS, the people who exploit these children for their own profit regularly use online classified advertisements as a way to offer children for sale in cities across an entire region, simultaneously; and

WHEREAS, the most prominent of these classified services, Backpage.com, owned by the Village Voice Media corporation, operates hundreds of classified services in cities and towns in all 50 states; and

WHEREAS, across the United States, local papers and websites link to Backpage.com, and other like classified service providers that create additional avenues for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors; and

WHEREAS, despite the documented evidence of numerous cases of children being trafficked on Backpage.com, the service's parent company has repeatedly refused to institute measures that would effectively address the issue of the sex trafficking of minors; and

WHEREAS, in response, the City of Seattle ceased advertising in the Seattle Weekly, a publication owned by Village Voice Media; and

WHEREAS, the State of Washington recently created a new law that makes advertising the commercial sexual abuse of a minor a felony offense, and requires advertisers to verify the age of the person being advertised; and

WHEREAS, Connecticut and other states have recently introduced similar legislation; and

WHEREAS, a wide range of Americans, from elected officials and advocates to journalists and clergy, has called on Backpage.com and other classified services to change their practices,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Backpage.com and other classified services nationwide to implement in person age verification and end the sale of children through their services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress, state legislatures, and local elected bodies to pass legislation to address commercial advertising over the Internet for sexual abuse of minors.