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  • Geebo 9:01 am on April 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Backpage, , Jim Larkin, Kyrsten Sinema, Michael Lacey   

    Arizona pols rush to dump Backpage donations 

    Arizona pols rush to dump Backpage donations

    While a federal grand jury was investigating Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, it was discovered that the pair made a number of financial donations to various politicians in the Grand Canyon State. While the amount of donations wasn’t that large when it comes to politics, it can appear tainted since Backpage is the largest online avenue of sex trafficking in the US. While the duo also made donations in New Mexico and Colorado, the amount they donated in Arizona was reportedly around $60,200.

    One politician who has come under recent scrutiny due to the donations is US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. She received a donation that exceeded $10,000. Like many of the other politicians who received these donations, once Sinema was made aware of where the money came from she attempted to donate the money to charity. However, should she be under such criticism since Backpage seems to have made some of these donations in ways that seem somewhat underhanded?

    In some cases rather than Lacey or Larkin donating the money themselves, they allegedly either had their spouses or other Backpage employees make the donations. Much like their legal defenses, everything Backpage seems to do is questionable at best, or at least unethical. It almost seems like Backpage can’t do anything that is above-board.

     
  • Geebo 11:02 am on February 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, Children of the Night, Dr. Lois Lee,   

    Guest Post: Why does a child advocacy group want Backpage’s trafficking ads to remain? 

    Guest Post:  Why does a child advocacy group want Backpage's trafficking ads to remain?

    (This is a guest post from crime blogger Trench Reynolds)

    Please watch the following video from Fox 23 in Tulsa about Backpage and their so-called self-imposed shuttering of the adult ads section…

    First off, I’m usually not one to tell police how to do their job, but to the unidentified Tulsa Detective, less prostitution means fewer victims of trafficking. That’s a good thing. Just because 99% of your stings are done online doesn’t mean that your job is dependent on Backpage staying in business. You would think that someone whose job it is to protect the public would be happy that there would be less of a crime instead of maintaining the status quo.

    The part of the video I really want to talk about comes at the 1:21 mark where a screenshot from child advocacy group Children of the Night is shown in support of Backpage. They claim that Backpage helps them find trafficking victims in order to rescue them. I would argue that without Backpage there wouldn’t be as near as many people that they would need to rescue, but Children of the Night’s motives may be more financial than altruistic.

    Children of the Night takes money from Backpage. The group’s director, Dr. Lois Lee, has even admitted as such on my website.

    That’s not even mentioning that Dr. Lee appears to be very close with Backpage attorney Liz McDougall, attending conferences together in Lyon, France.

    Talking by phone one November night from Lyon, France, where she and McDougall had just attended an INTERPOL conference on trafficking, Children of the Night’s Lee lauded Backpage’s cooperation with law enforcement, saying it’s better than any other social network.

    Some may call that a conflict of interest, I know I do. It seems that Dr. Lee believes that Backpage can be both the source and solution of 80% of all online prostitution in the US. In the past I’ve referred to that as the Backpage Paradox.

    Even though Backpage’s adult ads still thrive on their website, only in a different section, if the ads were to disappear it would lead to a vast reduction in he number of women and girls being trafficked for sex, and isn’t that the true goal?

     
  • Geebo 10:56 am on January 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , ,   

    Backpage sued by underage trafficking victims and why these suits are different 

    Backpage sued by underage trafficking victims and why these suits are different

    Yesterday, multiple lawsuits were filed against Backpage in four different states by victims who were trafficked on Backpage for sex while they were underage. At the times these victims were being trafficked they ranged in ages from 14 to 17. The suits, filed in California, Alabama, Texas, and Washington, claim that Backpage knowingly profited from the trade of underage girls on its website.

    Lawsuits like these are nothing new for Backpage. Two of the more newsworthy lawsuits were filed in Massachusetts and Washington, but unfortunately those lawsuits were defeated in the courts. These new lawsuits are different that their predecessors for two reasons. The first is the fact that Backpage heads Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin are being named in the suit. The second reason is that these are the first suits being filed after the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that Backpage allegedly edits their ads to make the victims appear of age. Previously the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protected Backpage in these suits because the CDA states that a website’s owner is not criminally responsible for the content that their users post. However, if Backpage is editing the ads that their users post, that could render their CDA defense null and void.

    Much has been made in the news about how Backpage shut down their adult section only to have it turn out that the trafficking ads have migrated to the personals section where Backpage is still making money from them. Since Backpage only cares about the money they make, maybe these lawsuits will finally strike a blow against them that will finally make them reconsider their business model of slavery.

     
  • Geebo 11:05 am on January 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage,   

    Business as usual at Backpage as trafficking ads continue 

    Business as usual at Backpage as trafficking ads continue

    As should have been expected, Backpage’s grandiose claims of government censorship causing them to shutter the adult section of their site was nothing more than a virtual sleight of hand. The adult ads appear to have allegedly migrated from the adult section to the personals section where Backpage can still collect money for them.

    This was first reported by Cleveland.com who were notified by Andrea Powell, an advocate from the organization FAIR Girls, whose purpose it is to rescue girls from human trafficking. More recently it was brought to light by Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of Backpage. Sheriff Dart had the following to say…

    A couple days after Backpage made the switch, Dart said his officers set up a “date” with one of the women advertising on the site and confirmed she was charging for sex.

    “We went out and arrested a person off the site,” he said. “We answered one of their ads and it was no different.”

    While it is free to post ads in the personals section, there are upgrades you can purchase to keep the ads in better positioning and circulation. The Senate Subcommittee that investigated Backpage alleged that Backpage had moderators that would edit the ads for prostitution to make them seem less illegal. If they used their moderators for that purpose then potentially couldn’t they use them to keep the prostitution ads out of the personals?

    Let’s not forget what’s really at stake here. While Backpage is playing games with Congress, there are still women and children being forced into slavery by their traffickers on Backpage. Nothing has changed. Law enforcement and the government must not forget that these victims are still out there and must continue the fight, even if we have to remind them.

     
  • Geebo 12:30 pm on January 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage,   

    Backpage shuts down adult section after Senate scolding 

    Backpage shuts down adult section after Senate scolding

    Backpage.com has shuttered the adult section of its site after a Senate subcommittee released a report in which they said Backpage was willingly editing ads to hide the fact that they were promoting child prostitution. That means that according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Backpage was knowingly editing the ads that appeared to have someone underage in them but still letting the advertisement be displayed on their site. According to the report Backpage’s own moderators knew that the adult ads were for prostitution but were instructed to sanitize the ads as much as possible.

    Meanwhile Backpage is once again claiming that this a First Amendment issue that somehow the Constitution guarantees them the right to make money from human trafficking. child prostitution and sexual slavery. While throwing what can be best described as a hissy fit on the front page of their website claiming government censorship, Backpage is willingly shutting down the adult section of their site. Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, put it best in their joint statement to the press.

    “Yesterday we reported the evidence that Backpage has been far more complicit in online sex trafficking than anyone previously knew. Backpage’s response wasn’t to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site. That’s not ‘censorship’—it’s validation of our findings.”

    Since Backpage reportedly receives the majority of their profits from their adult ads, and that their founders are still facing criminal charges, it remains to be seen if Backpage will try to survive as a ‘normal’ classifieds site. However, if one had to hazard a guess on Backpage’s future one might speculate that it would be bleak at best.

    Make no mistake that this isn’t a blow to free speech but a victory for all the women and girls that have been trafficked on Backpage for the past 12 years.

     
  • Geebo 11:18 am on October 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, ,   

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer arrested on sex trafficking charges 

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer arrested on sex trafficking charges

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    Yesterday, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested on prostitution and child prostitution charges after departing a flight from Amsterdam at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. The warrant, out of the state of California, issued by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, alleges that 99% of Backpage’s revenue comes from the money it makes off of prostitution ads. Along with Ferrer’s arrest, the offices of Backpage in Dallas were also raided and arrest warrants have been issued for Backpage shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin. They’re being charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. Lacey and Larkin were Backpage’s founders and at one time its owners.

    While this may appear to be a victory for the victims of sex trafficking, One has to wonder how this will affect the Senate investigation into Backpage? To date, Backpage has caught just about every legal lucky break in their controversial history. However, those were either for legislative or civil lawsuit issues. Will these criminal charges stick? Many hope they do but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the charges were somehow to be dismissed.

     
  • Geebo 9:56 am on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, ,   

    Supreme Court rules Backpage must turn over sex trafficking records 

    Supreme Court rules Backpage must turn over sex trafficking records

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to block a Senate subpoena that had requested Backpage turn over its internal records regarding its alleged role in online prostitution and sex trafficking. In case you haven’t been following the story, back in August, a federal judge gave Backpage ten days to turn over its records to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The subcommittee has been investigating Backpage for some time and has been attempting to get these records for almost a year. Backpage was given a stay after that ruling, but soon afterwards the stay was lifted. This prompted Backpage to appeal to the Supreme Court, which as was just mentioned refused to block the subpoena. The Supreme Court’s ruling makes Backpage’s deadline to turn over records effective immediately.

    Backpage claims that they are being cooperative withe the Senate’s request but would like to receive more time to gather all the records requested.

    Backpage lawyers said Tuesday night they were turning over more than 38,000 pages immediately, but they also filed a request with the judge asking for a delay in the deadline.

    The lawyers said complying with Congress’ request that personally identifying data be deleted will take longer. They said they’ve already spent nearly 3,000 hours of work, involving 34 lawyers, to try to process information.

    “The volume of documents and data required to be processed, reviewed, redacted and logged renders production of every last responsive document and complete privilege logs by September 13, 2016 impossible regardless of best efforts,” the company’s lawyers said, adding that they hoped the tens of thousands of pages they were producing would be evidence of good faith.

    Congressional lawyers have said they would oppose any such request.

    Whether this will be an eventual legal victory for the victims of Backapage’s alleged role in US sex trafficking remains to be seen as Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has already shown to be sort of a slippery eel by previously fleeing the country when subpoenaed to appear before the Senate. However, it does appear, for now, that the victims are one step closer to finally receiving the justice they deserve.

     
  • Geebo 6:31 pm on September 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, ,   

    Backpage loses free speech argument in bid to keep alleged sex trafficking records private 

    Backpage loses free speech argument in bid to keep alleged sex trafficking records private

    In case you haven’t been following the story of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, it’s been a long and sordid one. Late last year, Mr. Ferrer was subpoenaed to appear before the US Senate in order to testify about Backpage’s alleged role in online sex trafficking. Virtually thumbing his nose at Congress, Mr. Ferrer failed to appear, claiming that business in Amsterdam was more pressing. This led to the senate not only holding Backpage and Ferrer in contempt, but they were the first entities to be sued by the Senate in over 20 years in an attempt to gain access to Backpage’s internal records. Since the controversy surrounding Backpage started, they’ve always claimed that they are immune from prosecution under the First Amendment.

    Last month a federal judge rejected Backpage’s argument and ordered them to turn over their internal records. These records may contain evidence that Backapge edited prostitution ads so they would appear legal. Backpage was given a stay to make a case for themselves, but today the apopeals court found Backpage’s argument lacking and reinstated the judge’s order. This means that Backpage has 10 days to turn over all of their records to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The judge who initially ruled had previously stated that if this meant every email that Backpage had than so be it.

    This could be the beginning of the end for the controversial classifieds site. It’s been claimed that not only does Backpage make the majority of its money from prostitution ads, but that they’re also responsible for 82% of all online prostitution in the US. Today’s ruling was not a blow against free speech, this was a victory for the freedom of all the woman and children who have been, and currently still are, sold into sexual slavery on Backpage.

     
  • Geebo 10:04 am on July 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, ,   

    Backpage’s role in sex trafficking by the numbers 

    Backpage's role in sex trafficking by the numbers

    Recently, women’s news blog Broadly posted an article about the trouble that law enforcement and regulators have been having with Backapge and the hand they have in sex trafficking entitled “Why Is It So Hard to Fight Child Sex Trafficking on Backpage.com?” In it the article’s author, Matt Ramos, goes over the history of Backapge’s role in the sex trade and some of the atrocities that many believe they have had more than just a cursory involvement in.

    Even with these well documented incidents attributed to Backpage, most people still don’t understand the far-reaching effect Backpage has had when it comes to the trafficking of women and children for the purposes of sexual slavery. In his article Mr. Ramos mentions these statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

    According to Yiota Souras, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the NCMEC has seen an 846 percent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking over the last five years. The increase, according to NCMEC, is “directly correlated to the increased use of the Internet to sell children for sex.” Souras added that 71 percent of child sex trafficking cases reported to NCMEC are related to Backpage listings.

    Let’s add those statistics to previous ones like the estimate that says that 82 percent of all online prostitution takes place on Backpage, or that over 80% of Backpage’s overall ads were for prostitution. Pretty sobering statistics for a company that claims to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

     
  • Geebo 10:03 am on July 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Artem Vaulin, Backpage, , , KAT, Kickass Torrents,   

    US seizure of top piracy site shows government’s misguided priorities 

    US seizure of top piracy site shows government's misguided priorities

    Yesterday, in a joint effort between Homeland Security, Facebook, Apple and the Polish Government, among others, 30-year-old Ukrainian citizen Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland and is awaiting extradition to the United States. With that kind of concerted effort behind it you would think that he must be some kind of terrorist, or drug lord, or some huge figurehead in international organized crime. He’s none of those actually, but what he is believed to be is the owner of a website that allows its users to obtain pirated works such as movies, music and TV shows. Vaulin is believed to be, by US authorities, the owner of a site called Kickass Torrents (KAT). KAT doesn’t actually host any of the pirated works. What they do host are what’s known as torrent files. These are files that allow the users of KAT to collectively share the pirated works between each other. I realize that’s largely arguing semantics, but it dispels a myth that these pirate sites host the actual pirated works.

    So why does any of this matter? Even though no statement has been made to the effect, one could easily surmise that this massive operation on the part of the US Government came from pressure from the entertainment industry, which Homeland Security estimates that they’re losing $1 billion a year because of KAT. In a sense, it seems like the government is bowing to pressure from people who make things like trashy reality shows.

    Now I know the ‘Why don’t you go after the real criminals’ argument is a specious one, because you would want your law enforcement to pursue all criminals, but couldn’t the government’s resources and manpower be better used? For example, take Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. Mr. Ferrer was called to testify before Congress about Backpage’s role in the sex trafficking of women and children in our country. Instead, Mr, Ferrer left for the Netherlands ‘on business’. Since that time not only has Congress held him in contempt but he and Backpage are being sued by Congress. Why is there no contingent of government and corporate forces uniting to bring Mr. Ferrer before Congress? It’s simple really. The victims of sex trafficking have no lobbying group behind them. There’s no money to be made by politicians for trying to stop the flood of human trafficking that Backpage allegedly facilitates. On the other hand the entertainment industry has very deep pockets for our friends in Washington.

    So sorry to all the victims of Backpage, it seems you can’t afford justice.

     
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