Former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith of Vancouver was one of about 25 demonstrators who protested outside the Phoenix New Times headquarters Wednesday over the company's publication of ads that may be a front for underage sex trafficking, according to ABC 15 in Phoenix, Ariz.
The group wants to stop the company's Backpage.com from posting the ads, which at first glance appear to advertise escort and massage businesses, according to the ABC News affiliate.
Backpage is at the center of a Washington lawsuit over the ads. It has argued that online service providers are not culpable for advertising placed by third parties, according to ABC 15.
"They have children for sale; they know it," Smith was quoted as saying on http://villagevoicepimp.com. "They're trying to keep it as clean as they can, but the 23 million is more important than our children. We're simply saying: 'Start a legitimate business; this is America.'" Phoenix New Times is part of Village Voice Media.
Smith is founder of Shared Hope International, which seeks to stop child sex trafficking, and a member of War Against Trafficking Alliance. She was a Republican congresswoman from 1995 to 1999 and grew up in Vancouver.