WA lawmakers seek to ban sale of underage sex ads

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state lawmakers are introducing legislation that would require classified advertising companies to attempt to verify the age of escorts listed in sex-related postings.

The bill was one of a dozen introduced Monday in the Senate seeking to curb sex trafficking.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she hoped the bill would compel online clearinghouse Backpage.com to require proof of age for those depicted in escort advertisements on its site. The Seattle Police Department has linked 22 cases of child prostitution to girls who were advertised as escorts on Backpage.com, a subsidiary of Village Voice Media, which also owns Seattle Weekly.

Village Voice Media attorney Steve Suskin said the bill would violate federal law, which ensures website operators aren't liable for the speech of unaffiliated parties.