President of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

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By: Anderson Cooper, CNN

The president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children responds to a claim made by Backpage.com that they work together, and that the site is part of the solution to child sex-trafficking. Ernie Allen says screening is not a solution.


COOPER: Ernie, Liz McDougal often says -- she cites your organization as someone that BackPage works with, and she says that they're part of the solution, not part of the problem. To that you say what?

ERNIE ALLEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Well, I say yes, they've been working with us, as have 900 other Internet companies. We are the central repository of reports for child sexual exploitation in this country. And we commend their reporting.
But reporting and screening is not a panacea, and it's not a solution to the problem. Our goal is to end the sexual trafficking of children, not simply to create reports.

COOPER: They portray themselves as the sheriffs of the Internet and that they're all about, you know, stopping illegal activity. Do you buy that?

ALLEN: I don't. What is happening is that the Internet has become the primary resource, the information clearinghouse for the purchase of children for sex and for illegal prostitution. We've got to do more. And the reality is what law enforcement is telling us, is that these leads aren't terribly useful in most cases. Because the pimps are smart and they don't always post the photo of the person who shows up at the hotel room, or they don't post photos at all, or there's misleading information. These are very difficult cases for law enforcement to work.

COOPER: So while shutting down BackPage.com would not end child trafficking, and no one is making that argument, do you think it would be a step in the right direction?

ALLEN: I certainly do. We worked for two years with Craigslist in the same way. They reported to us aggressively. They screened and monitored. After two years, they concluded that it wasn't working and that they needed to do something else. One of the challenges with sites like Craigslist and BackPage is they're so multi-faceted. It's a site where you can look at a job ad, you can sell your used car, you can buy a toaster and also, you can buy a kid for sex.

COOPER: And you think that, in a way, normalizes the illegal activity?

ALLEN: I don't think there's any question but that it not only normalizes it, but facilitates it.

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