When someone would try to post an ad on Backpage with those words, the automated system would tell them not to use the word but they could still post an ad with different language.
"By October 2010, Backpage executives formalized a process of both manual and automated deletion of incriminating words and phrases, primarily through a feature called the 'Strip Term From Ad Filter'," the report stated, adding that according to Backpage executives, they were editing 70 to 80 percent of the advertisements in the "adult" section of the website.
The filter "changed nothing about the true nature of the advertised transaction or the real age of the person being sold for sex," the report said, but "thanks to the filter, Backpage's adult ads looked 'cleaner than ever.'"
The subcommittee had subpoenaed Backpage officials for a Nov. 2015 hearing but the officials dodged the request, resulting in the first civil contempt action by the Senate in over 20 years being leveled.
In 2016, a federal court ordered Backpage to send the subpoenaed documents to the subcommittee.
"They put profits ahead of vulnerable women and children," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), chair of the subcommittee, said of Backpage on Tuesday.
"Advertisements were deliberately sanitized to conceal evidence of child prostitution, to conceal evidence of child trafficking. We know Backpage has hid its systematic editing practices from the public for years while convincing the courts and Congress it was just a host for third party content, entitled to an immunity under federal law for that reason," he continued.
"These are not the practices of an 'ally' in the fight against human trafficking. These are the practices of a corporation intent on profiting from human trafficking – and human misery – and profit they have, at the expense of countless innocent victims."
Backpage has touted its record of cooperating with law enforcement, providing a list of previous statements from the FBI and local police departments thanking them for their assistance in catching pimps responsible for trafficking postings on its site.
Portman, however, said at the hearing "we know now" that Backpage's claims of cooperation with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were "misleading."
"It seems likely that Backpage has been breaking the law as it exists right now," he said, and "based on the evidence we've collected" he and Sen. Claire McCaskill (R-Mo.) "will promptly consider" referring the matter to the Department of Justice.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Parents of child sex trafficking victims testified of the violence and trauma their children endured, along with the emotional trauma of family members.
Parent Nacole S. described how her daughter, during high school, suffered from stress and decided to leave home to make an attempt at "finding herself." She traveled to Seattle and at a teen homeless shelter met a 22 year-old woman posing as a teen who brought her into a sex trafficking ring.
Her daughter was "repeatedly raped, beatened, threatened, and treated like a sexual object every day," Nacole testified through tears, "while being posted as an ad on Backpage."
"When we finally got Natalie back," she said of her daughter, "the young girl we found wasn't the same Natalie that left our home months earlier."
"Our new dream is simple," she said, "to live in an America that doesn't stand aside while little girls…are sold online like a commodity, purchased with all the same convenience that you would expect as an order on Amazon."
Kubiiki P., mother of a child sex trafficking victim, revealed that her daughter was trafficked for months on the site. Even after she was recovered, sexually explicit pictures of her daughter were still surfacing in ads on the site.