The Role of the Internet
The Internet plays a highly significant role in both the recruitment of victims and the solicitation of “johns.” Traffickers use key websites and online classifieds to post pictures and advertise services. 75% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online.¹⁴
The most common website used by traffickers is Backpage.com. It is used to advertise sexual services and schedule appointments with “johns.” While Craigslist was the most frequently used website in the past, the “Adult Services” section of the site has since been closed.
Social media sites like Facebook are used to interact with potential victims and conduct “recruitment.”
Traffickers make wide use of a plethora of websites that tell men and women exactly how to pimp or traffic. The Internet provides the main platform for traffickers to: learn how to traffic, identify potential victims, "recruit" them, follow them, share their experiences with other traffickers, and get information about how to avoid law enforcement detection.
"In June 2010, Dwayne Lawson was sentenced to 210 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to sex trafficking of children. The investigation began when Los Angeles police arrested a teenage girl for prostitution. Investigators learned that the girl was a runaway working for Lawson, who initially contacted the girl on **Myspace.com**. Lawson promised to make her a ‘star,’ gave her a bus ticket from Florida to Las Vegas, Nevada.¹³"
"In October 2010, Sterling Terrance Hospedales, a former Army sergeant, was sentenced to 11 years for sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking of a child. The investigation began in Lakewood, Washington, when local police received reports of a young runaway posting ads selling sexual services on Craigslist.
Investigators located and interviewed the juvenile, who led them to Hospedales. Investigators also discovered another juvenile victimized by Hospedales. The second juvenile had met him on Myspace. Hospedales paid for her plane ticket and, within a week, posted photos of her on Craigslist advertising sexual services. In a memo, prosecutors emphasized that Hospedales had targeted susceptible juveniles, 'Hospedales intentionally sought out emotionally damaged, vulnerable victims—runaways who had no support system whatsoever and no idea of how to be in a normal, functioning relationship.'¹³"