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Officials seeing more human trafficking arrests stemming from adult services websites

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- More Hoosiers are using adult services websites like Backpage.com to advertise kids and teens involved in human trafficking.

According to court records, earlier this month, three people were arrested for using Backpage to solicit a 17-year-old girl. The girl told police she was being forced to prostitute and did not know she was being advertised online.

Last month, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton announced the arrest of the websites CEO, Carl Ferrer.

"Backpage.com seems to have knowingly and willingly allowed women and children to be exploited in return for its own financial gain," explained Paxton during a press conference.

According to a study conducted by the Indiana Attorney General's Office, in 2014 there were 90,000 ads for adult services on Backpage. This year, there have already been 380,000 ads on the website, many of them offering illegal services.

The website is still up and running. According to Indiana Assistant Attorney General and Director of Victims Services Outreach, Abby Kuzma, a federal law may be protecting websites like Backpage from getting shut down.

"It ended up immunizing, if you will, websites for postings on their sites. So in other words, they’re not liable for postings on their sites," Kuzma said. She added, "Backpage.com has been very, very aggressive in fighting any kind of legislation that would limit their ability to advertise human beings for sale on the internet," Kuzma said.

This year, more than 170 Hoosier kids and teens have been reported to be trafficked, including on sites like Backpage. These statistics are part of a larger study by the attorney general's office that's expected to come out in the next few weeks.

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