Updates from August, 2018 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Geebo 10:22 am on August 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Police doing fine without Backpage 

    Police doing fine without Backpage

    Ever since the seizure of Backpage by the Federal Government, a number of Backpage’s defenders have said that without Backpage, police are hamstrung in their efforts to curb human trafficking and that instances of human trafficking have not decreased since Backpage’s closure. However, you couldn’t tell that by looking at Cook County, Illinois. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has a long history of innovating in the fight against online human trafficking and have not rested on their laurels just because Backpage is gone.

    Recently, Cook County and neighboring jurisdictions in Illinois conducted operations that resulted in the arrest of close to 80 alleged johns who were looking for sex online. Authorities placed several ads on various escort websites in order to try to track those interested in buying victims for sexual purposes. Police involved in the operation say that the ads would receive three inquiries per ad while ads on Backpage used to average 17 inquiries per ad. In a region that includes the country’s third largest city, Chicago, this goes to show that Backpage’s closure is having a positive effect in helping to curb human trafficking.

    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) once said that Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking in the US and that Backpage wasn’t the most helpful when it came to NCMEC’s requests for assistance in helping to find missing children being peddled on Backpage. Backpage could not be both the source of and solution to human trafficking as some would have you believe. Anybody who says that Backpage’s closure hasn’t been a help to the victims of human trafficking is not only selling our police short but is using these excuses to try to justify their own behavior.

     
  • Geebo 11:10 am on August 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Indicted Backpage heads start suing each other 

    Indicted Backpage heads start suing each other

    Speaking of Backpage and Delaware, the top brass at the former Backpage are now suing each other in Delaware’s Chancery Court over access to funds allocated for their criminal defense. Through their respective holdings companies, Backapge founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey are suing former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and 19 others for alleged actions that prevented Lacey and Larkin from accessing legal funds they believe belong to them. For a heavy legalese take on the suit, you can check this article from Law 360.

    If you’ll recall, when Backpage was seized by the Federal Government back in April, Ferrer almost immediately pleaded guilty to various charges of facilitating prostitution through Backpage. Shortly after that, the government froze most if not all of Backpage’s assets. Now, Lacey and Larkin seem to be accusing Ferrer of sitting on retainers to various law firms that could possibly aid Larkin and Lacey in their various legal defenses.

    I’ll be honest, corporate and financial law has never been my strong suit so I can’t give an opinion on if any of these suits have merit. However, in my opinion, it feels like Larkin and Lacey are starting to experience a slight degree of Karma. Many of Backpage’s victims could not take legal action against Backpage for facilitation human trafficking because of either cost or the pre-FOSTA protections that Backpage was undeserving of. Although, I’m pretty sure Lacey and Larkin are far from destitute. Since they have been charged with allegedly laundering money, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had an emergency legal defense fund squirreled away in some offshore holding the government hasn’t found yet.

     
  • Geebo 9:18 am on August 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Facebook hate speech continues to spread across the world 

    Facebook hate speech continues to spread across the world

    Previously, I’ve posted about how unfettered hate speech on Facebook has led from everything to ethnic cleansing, to lynch mobs and refugee persecution from Myanmar to Germany. Now imagine you open Facebook in your browser today and you read about how a group of ‘patriots’ wants to go all vigilante on an entire ethnicity just because a few people of that ethnicity have committed a crime. If you were in America you may think we’ve somehow traveled back in time to the Jim Crow-era South, but in Australia, that’s happening right now in the city of Melbourne, where many white citizens, politicians and some of the media are blaming on the Sudanese community.

    In America, we tend to have a very narrow view of the rest of the world as we tend to be a very insular country. This results in sometimes viewing countries like Myanmar as third-world countries and that they’re problems don’t affect us. However, we’re now talking about Australia. While they may be on the other side of the globe, they are one of the most prosperous countries in the world in both finance and freedoms. The ignorant hate speech in Australia calling for violence against the Sudanese is just a small example of what could happen here in the U.S. if we’re not careful.

    As The Guardian points out, Facebook has no real incentive to try to curb hate speech on its platform. If it were to do so, it would not only cut into the company’s growth but its profits as well. Just look at the situation in Myanmar for example, Facebook wouldn’t even lift a finger to curb hate speech against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar until the United Nations accused Myanmar’s leadership of allegedly committing genocide.

    If hate speech is to be curbed on Facebook it needs to be done by us, its users. The best way to do that would be to abandon the platform since it has become a haven for toxic behavior. If Facebook can’t control the power it’s unleashed on the world then we have to take back the power for ourselves by making Facebook a footnote in online history, much like Facebook did to MySpace.

     
  • Geebo 9:14 am on August 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Another craigslist puppy ring results in sick animals 

    Another craigslist puppy ring results in sick animals

    Authorities in Prince William County, Virginia, have arrested three people on animal cruelty charges for allegedly selling very sick puppies on craigslist. Many of the puppies sold had parvovirus, or parvo as it’s more commonly known, and at least one had died after being sold. After receiving numerous complaints, animal control officers investigated the grounds where the puppies were being kept and calling it a puppy mill would be generous. According to reports, the living conditions for the puppies were deplorable, to say the least. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence on craigslist.

    If you’re familiar with Geebo, you know that we haven’t accepted ads for pets in quite some time in order to help prevent animal cruelty on a scale such as this. However, did you know that pet sales are listed as prohibited on craigslist? According to craigslist’s own terms of service, pet sales are prohibited but re-homing with a small adoption fee is ok. You couldn’t tell by going to craigslist and doing a search for puppies. Since craigslist rarely does any kind of moderation on their platform, these types of puppy sales continue, mostly unabated.

    Buying a puppy should never be a heat of the moment decision and while buying a puppy off of craigslist may satisfy an urge of instant satisfaction, in the long run, it could also lead to heartbreak for you and your family. Don’t cheap out when it comes to adding a new member to your family. Always do your research first and only do business with legitimate and licensed breeders. Real breeders will never want to meet you in a parking lot or some other sketchy locale. Please also consider adopting from your local shelter. Too many shelters have to turn away animals because there’s not enough room in their kennels. Also, re-homing costs through shelters are usually very reasonable and in most cases, the animals have been well taken care of medically and emotionally by the shelter. Wouldn’t you rather be a hero in your dog’s eyes?

     
  • Geebo 9:09 am on August 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Facebook removes pages of top Myanmar officials 

    Facebook removes pages of top Myanmar officials

    I’ve been posting about the crisis in Myanmar for a while now. If you’re unfamiliar with the situation in the country formerly known as Burma, the majority Buddhist government has been accused of fueling hate crimes and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing close to a million Rohingya to flee Myanmar into Bangladesh. One of the ways the Myanmar government is accused of persecuting the Rohingya is by spreading false information about the Rohingya through Facebook. Facebook is considered to be the internet by many in Myanmar.

    Today, the United Nations said that top Myanmar officials should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In the wake of the UN’s announcement, Facebook has removed 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account, and 52 Facebook Pages, many of which were run by some of Myanmar’s top officials. These accounts were said to have 12 million followers total.

    Facebook spokeswoman Clare Wareing said by email that the social media site took this step, “since international experts, including a UN-commissioned report, have found evidence that many of these officials committed serious human rights abuses in the country.”

    While it’s commendable that Facebook removed these accounts, why did it take a UN indictment before they decided to take action? Secondly, why does Facebook think that removing only 71 accounts will do anything to curb the violence? Ever since Facebook has been implicated in the violence against the Rohingya, they’ve only taken half-measures that have had no real effect on stopping the crisis. Now, Facebook is trying to ride the coattails of the UN by trying to make it look like they’re really doing something about it when any number of these accounts could be relaunched under other names in a matter of moments.

     
  • Geebo 9:36 am on August 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Beware of these scams targeting college students 

    Beware of these scams targeting college students

    Back when I was in college, the only scam you really had to look out for was predatory lenders offering ‘great deals’ on credit cards. Being young at the time I did, in fact, fall for that particular scam and it ended up being a black mark on my credit report for years. Today, with so many avenues scammers have to approach college students, they have to be even more vigilant in watching out for multiple scams.

    If you have a child who’s currently getting ready to attend college you probably know about how much pressure they can feel about securing student loans or grants in order to try to secure funding for their education. As is their usual M.O., scammers always love to prey on those who are in stressful situations, especially when it comes to financial ones. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that scammers are targeting students of one Michigan college where the scammers will pose as the college financial office threatening that their classes will be dropped if they don’t pay an additional fee and that the fee must be paid over the phone then and there. Of course, the college does not accept payment over the phone.

    Other common scams appear as offers that will either reduce your student loan or claim to offer some kind of financial assistance. In many of these cases that can appear as text messages or emails, will either try to get the student’s financial information or will try to get the student to pay some kind of upfront fee. Sometimes the fee requested will be in some form of a gift card which should be a dead giveaway that it’s a scam.

    In today’s controversial world of colleges and financing, our students have enough on their plate without having to worry about scammers trying to take their money. While they may be smart, students at that age can still be impressionable. If there’s an incoming college student on your family or circle of friends, please let them know about these scams so they don’t have to keep paying for their mistake for years to come.

     
  • Geebo 10:15 am on August 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    New issues show Facebook’s loss of control 

    New issues show Facebook's loss of control

    Facebook has exploded into the news this week with a number of issues that show how problematic the popular platform has become. The first issue for Facebook was when they announced the deletion of a number of profiles and pages that were from Russia and Iran designed to spread false and inflammatory information into the US and other Western countries. Facebook says they deleted 652 pages, groups, and accounts. While it’s commendable that Facebook removed these accounts, this is only a symptom in a larger problem of continuous foreign influence in Western Democracy.

    Secondly, Facebook announced that, in a move similar to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, four million users may have had their personal data compromised. Facebook has banned an app called MyPersonality, a personality quiz as you can probably surmise. Even though four million users is a drop in the bucket of Facebook’s billions of users worldwide, that’s still a significant number of users whose personal information may have been exposed. While it’s an improvement over the 87 million accounts exposed in the Cambridge Analytica kerfuffle, Facebook seems like it’s still leaking like a sieve with our information.

    Lastly, and probably the most damning, the New York Times published an expose on a study that has linked Facebook use to anti-refugee violence in Germany. While the study doesn’t blame Facebook per se, it does allege that Facebook use paired with engagement into hate-filled rhetoric has resulted in a rise in hate-related violence. What concerns me most about this study is how much Facebook hate-crimes based on ethnicity or religion are coming closer and closer to the US. In today’s charged political climate, how long will it be before Facebook lynch mobs finally leave their keyboards and start taking to the streets?

    Facebook has become a virus that has escaped the lab and is creeping through the world’s population and by continuing to rely so heavily on it we’re willingly ignoring the cure.

     
  • Geebo 9:22 am on August 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Backpage founders still trying to defend their actions as free speech 

    Backpage founders still trying to defend their actions as free speech

    Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey

    Indicted co-founders of Backpage, Jim Larkin, and Michael Lacey, recently broke their media silence since having Backpage seized by the Federal Government earlier this year. Being the media manipulators that they’ve been since the beginning, they didn’t pick just any media outlet to talk to. Instead, they picked one that would not only give them a soapbox but would also write about them in an almost heroic tone. Lacey and Larkin both spoke to Libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine about the charges against them.

    Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the Libertarian philosophy, Libertarians prescribe to ideas of personal freedom and minimal government involvement. They tend to prefer that the ‘free market’ determine most social policies. That is the bent Reason takes when discussing Lacey and Larkin actually hailing them as freedom fighters. However, what Reason seems to immediately gloss over is what happens when the free market ends up violating the freedoms of other people? While writing about Lacey and Larkin as if they’re political prisoners of overreaching tyranny, Reason seems to hand-wave away the fact that scores of women and children were sold against their will into sexual slavery through Backpage.

    As far as Lacey and Larkin go, in their interview, they keep beating the same dead horse they’ve been beating for years. As is can be expected from them, they continue to maintain that they’re right to free speech has been violated as if the Frist Amendment gives them some God-given right to peddle women and children as if they were so much chattel, completely oblivious to the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery in this country. They even have the temerity to claim they feel violated by the Federal Government when their homes were raided during the seizure of Backpage. That statement alone is probably one of the greatest insults to the multitude of victims of Backpage trafficking.

    Let’s be absolutely clear here, Jim Larkin, and Michael Lacey are not victims nor are they defenders of free speech. The only thing that they’re truly concerned about is their wallets and it seems like they’ll go to any length of lies and propagandizing to protect their own interests while the lives of Backpage’s victims be damned.

     
  • Geebo 9:17 am on August 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Delaware to act on Backpage’s ‘good standing’ 

    Delaware to act on Backpage's 'good standing'

    Last week, it was reported that Backpage had re-registered as a company in good standing in Delaware even though the company has been seized by the Federal Government. Delaware is known for encouraging corporations to register in their state by offering tax incentives that are both beneficial to the state and the businesses. However, it’s not unheard of for criminal enterprises to register as a Delaware corporation in order to try to hide their illegal activities.

    Since the last report came out, the Delaware Attorney General, Matt Denn, has said that his office will seek to have Backpage dissolved as a corporation in Delaware. According to news station WHYY in Wilmington, Denn can do this under a new state law that gives his office the authority to dissolve LLCs that are petitioned to be dissolved. The new law, while promising, reflects that the state isn’t really actively searching for companies abusing the state’s generous corporate tax status. If it wasn’t for WHYY’s reporting and the investigating by a human trafficking support group, the state may not have realized that Backpage was still registered in Delaware.

    WHYY also reports that the Attorney General’s office will not appoint an independent counsel to recommend corrections to Delaware law preventing criminal organizations from registering in the first place, or re-registering after they’ve broken the law. While Delaware’s corporate tax breaks may be lucrative for the small state, there definitely needs to be some kind of system in place for holding corporations accountable when they egregiously run afoul of the law like Backpage has.

     
  • Geebo 8:59 am on August 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Top Backpage exec pleads guilty 

    Top Backpage exec pleads guilty

    Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey

    This past Friday, the sales and marketing director of Backpage, 49-year-old Dan Hyer, pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to facilitate prostitution. Hyer entered into a plea deal with prosecutors that could see him sentenced to five years in prison with a $250,000 fine. Hyer’s testimony included the admission that Backpage allegedly knew that many of the ads they were allowing were illegal.

    In exchange for his guilty plea, fifty charges of facilitating prostitution and 17 money laundering charged will be dropped. Reports say that it’s unclear if Hyer will testify against other Backpage executives, but to have that many charges against him dropped it would seem highly unlikely if he didn’t. The sentencing date for Hyer is set for November 19th while the remaining Backpage executives, including founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, are set to face trial in 2020.

    With Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer already pleading guilty and now Hyer, are we seeing the dominoes beginning to fall? Will more indicted Backpage executives enter into plea deals so the big fish can receive heavy sentences? I’m beginning to think that maybe Larkin and Lacey will not escape the prison time they rightfully deserve. It’s like watching the dissolution of a mob family while the underlings turn state’s evidence, which if you think about it Backpage was nothing more than an organized crime ring.

     
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