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  • Geebo 9:04 am on April 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Feds seize Backpage: A Triumph for Freedom 

    Feds seize Backpage: A Triumph for Freedom

    I think slavery is the next thing to hell. If a person would send another into bondage, he would, it appears to me, be bad enough to send him into hell, if he could. –Harriet Tubman

    In 2010, craigslist closed its adult services section after increasing pressure from the public and lawmakers. The protestors against craigslist believed that the adult services section was nothing more than a facilitating avenue for human trafficking. While some believe, or rather try to justify, that prostitution takes place between consenting adults, more often than not, the person being prostituted is doing so against their will. By the time craigslist got rid of most of its human trafficking ads, Backpage had already been engaging in similar advertisements. The difference between craigslist and Backpage is that Backpage’s business model was heavily dependent on the sex trade. While Backpage may have had a handful of ads for used cars or other items, it made the vast majority of its money from the prostitution ads. When craigslist shuttered its adult services section, Backpage was there to pick up the pieces.

    Backpage didn’t have nearly the amount of public pressure placed on them that craigslist did because they operated mostly under the public’s radar. While most people had heard of craigslist, only those in the know were really aware of Backpage’s existence and role in the sex trade. That doesn’t mean it escaped the notice of law enforcement as many high-ranking investigative officials across the country recognized Backpage for the problem it was. One such person was Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Illinois. While he was later admonished for using official county letterhead in doing so, Dart was able to convince the major credit card companies to stop accepting payments for Backpage. Undeterred, Backpage then started accepting cash, Bitcoin, and gift cards as payment from people who wanted to place prostitution ads on their website.

    Many law enforcement agencies and human rights groups tried to put a stop to Backpage in the courts, but time and time again Backpage would claim immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. That section of the CDA states that websites aren’t responsible for content their users publish. Backpage’s constant deflection of responsibility while continuing to make millions of dollars off the sex trade eventually garnered the attention of Congress. When Congress started to get involved in Backapge’s affairs could be cited as the beginning of the end for Backpage.

    The first crack in Backpage’s facade began to show when a congressional investigative committee found evidence that seemed to implicate that Backpage would edit ads that contained keywords that could indicate the person being advertised could be a minor. Shortly after that, the Washington Post discovered that Backpage was allegedly using a Philippine company to seek out people posting prostitution ads on other sites and not only asked them to come to Backpage but tailored ads for them. This led to Congress passing two bills designed to put a stop to Backpage. The Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA, while the House passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA. The combined FOSTA/SESTA bill is expected to be signed by the President soon.

    However, Federal and State investigative agencies didn’t wait for FOSTA/SESTA as yesterday Backpage.com was seized by authorities. Anyone going to Backpage online yesterday was greeted with the Department of Justice’s declaration that Backpage had been seized as part of an enforcement action by not only the FBI, but also the US Postal Inspector’s Office and the IRS. It’s the IRS’s involvement that lead me to believe this is finally the last we’ve seen of Backpage. According to Wired Magazine, there has been a 93 count indictment against seven people involved with Backpage where one of the charges is money laundering. I would even hazard a guess that maybe Backpage and its cabal of founders may not have been exactly forthcoming on their taxes. Let’s not forget that this is almost the exact same way the Feds were able to finally take down Al Capone. One of those people charged in the indictment was Backpage co-founder Mike Lacey. I would imagine that indictments for Backapge CEO Carl Ferrer and co-founder Jim Larkin can’t be far behind.

    Surprisingly, this is not the first instance of the Feds seizing a website that was involved in the facilitation of human trafficking. Back in 2014, the FBI seized MyRedBook which was a similar site to Backpage but on a much smaller scale. In that case the site owners were also accused of money laundering among child prostitution charges. That site’s owner was convicted and was forced to relinquish over a million dollars in cash and assets and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Since Backpage operated on a much grander scale, I would imagine any potential fines and sentences would dwarf those of MyRedBook.

    Since FOSTA/SESTA has yet to be signed into law, its detractors will say that we no longer need the legislation since Backpage was shut down without it. To those I say FOSTA/SESTA is still needed to prevent another website to rise from Backpage’s ashes like Backpage rose from craigslist’s. No woman or child ever deserves to be turned out online like so much property to be sold into sexual slavery over and over again on a constant basis.

     
    • Jennifer Smith 3:09 pm on April 7, 2018 Permalink

      I agree, we do still need FOSTA/SESTA to be signed into law, to aid in the prevention of another festering cesspool like Backpage. Oh, I am sure that the sex traffickers will continue to find a way to advertise their abusive “wares”, but we need to make it as difficult for them as we can.

  • Geebo 9:05 am on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Facebook has more controversies than it can handle 

    Facebook has more controversies than it can handle

    Artist’s rendering of the Facebook board room

    I’m going to let you have a little peek behind the curtain here at Greg’s Corner. As the official blogger for Geebo.com, I don’t like to post about the same subject twice in the same week. For example, earlier this week, I posted about how some in tech journalism are wondering if Mark Zuckerberg should step down as Facebook CEO in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. So, I had no real intentions of posting about Facebook again this week. That was until I checked my usual sources for news and the attention on Facebook was so intense that I had no choice but to blog about Facebook once again this week. The problem is that it’s not just one story about Facebook that is grabbing headlines today, but an overabundance of headlines in regard to Facebook today.

    For example…

    The Australian government is launching an investigation into Facebook as it’s possible that the data of 300,000 Australian Facebook users may have been compromised. This is similar to a claim made my the European Union that says that 2.7 million citizens of the EU may have had their information compromised as well. While we’re still on the world stage, Indonesia is launching its own investigation to see if Facebook breached that country’s privacy laws.

    Speaking of privacy issues, Facebook recently admitted that it scans users private messages. Supposedly, they do it to block content that doesn’t fit their ‘community standards’ but Facebook has always been intentionally vague about what those standards exactly entail. However, there is one person on Facebook whose private messages are completely safe. Of course that’s Mark Zuckerberg. Some of his private messages to other Facebook employees have been removed from Facebook. Facebook claims they did this in the wake of the Sony hacking scandal of a few years ago. Still, it seems a little bit more than hypocritical on Facebook’s part. However, the most egregious possible invasion of privacy Facebook was looking to commit was that of users’ medical records. According to CNBC, Facebook was allegedly asking several prominent hospitals for anonymous data about their patients, such as illnesses and prescription info, for a proposed research project. That doesn’t sound ominous in the least. Wisely, Facebook has decided to stop pursuing that avenue of research for now.

    I was about to say that Facebook is on the verge of becoming some kine of Orwellian surveyor, but let’s face it, they already are. The fictional Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984 would be jealous of the amount of surveillance Facebook conducts on its 2 billion users.

     
  • Geebo 9:18 am on April 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fallon Blackwood, , , ,   

    Craigslist scam may have led horses to slaughter 

    Craigslist scam may have led horses to slaughter

    A somewhat disturbing story has come out of the Southeastern United States about a craigslist scam involving the supposed re-homing of horses. An actual third-year veterinary student is accused of taking horses from people on craigslist who are looking for a new home for their animals, and then for all intents and purposes, the student is making the horses disappear.

    23-year-old Fallon Blackwood, of Boaz, Alabama, is accused of allegedly promising people all over the Southeast that she would re-home their horses with her own horse. At least in one incident when Fallon was pressed for information on how one horse was doing she reportedly told the horse’s former owner that both horses had been struck by lightning. Sadly, none of the horses were able to be found. A non-profit called NetPosse that tracks horse theft around the country is fearful that the horses have been sold for slaughter. As Geebo CEO Greg Collier pointed out in a 2014 blog post, it’s illegal to sell horses for slaughter in the United States, however, in neighboring Mexico the practice is still allowed. That’s only one of the many reasons why selling or giving away of animals is no longer permitted on Geebo.

    Re-homing a pet is difficult enough as too many people want puppies or kittens and not full-grown animals. Horses are a whole other matter as they are expensive to house and maintain. If you’re looking for a new home for your horse don’t just offer it to just anyone online. First, try to see if someone in your local community can take your horse for you. Then, if you find someone who can, ask them for a reference from their veterinarian to make sure their capable of taking care of such animals.

     
  • Geebo 8:59 am on April 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Charles McFee, , , Joseph Hazley   

    Is a child’s life worth $250? 

    Is a child's life worth $250?

    On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the murder of Desiree Robinson before. She was the 16-year-old girl who was being prostituted on Backpage in the Chicago area. On Christmas Eve of 2016, when 32-year-old Antonio Rosales couldn’t pay her, he allegedly brutally murdered her instead. Her alleged pimp tried to get other women to work for him and reportedly said “Now that she’s gone, I got no money coming in.” Now, the man who recruited Desiree for her pimp testified in court to how little Desiree’s life was worth to those who were trafficking her.

    Yesterday, 26-year-old Charles McFee pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of sex trafficking conspiracy for recruiting Desiree into prostitution. McFee expected to get a $250 ‘finder’s fee’ after ‘giving’ Desiree to her alleged pimp, Joseph Hazley. Hazley, is still awaiting trial on human trafficking charges for prostituting Desiree on Backpage. In exchange for a lighter sentence, McFee is expected to testify against Hazley.

    When people ask why we need legislation like FOSTA and SESTA, Desiree’s story should be the answer why, and her story is only one among multitudes of women and children who have been bought and sold like so much merchandise on Backpage. Not only do websites that facilitate human trafficking need to be held responsible for deaths like Desiree’s, but a message also needs to be sent to every would-be pimp and trafficker who thinks they can make some quick money by selling people into sexual slavery.

     
  • Geebo 9:28 am on April 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Is it time for Mark Zuckerberg to step down? 

    Is it time for Mark Zuckerberg to step down?

    From the foreign meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, to their alleged role in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohinngya people of Myanmar, to the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has had quite the tumultuous year to say the least. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even seem to be sorry for their part in some of the worst data breaches in history or for supposedly allowing some governments to use Facebook to suppress their citizens. In response to the Rohingya crisis, Zuckerberg has basically stated that “It’s an issue” and that they’re working on it. This is an issue that affects 700,000 displaced refugees and Mark Zuckerberg responds to it like your cable company when the signal goes out. To compound matters, Mr. Zuckerberg says that it will take years to fix Facebook’s current problems.

    By this time, most other companies would be looking to oust their CEO or the CEO would be taking the responsibility upon themselves and would step down. Wired Magazine has posted a detailed article on why Mark Zuckerberg should step away from Facebook and how it should proceed without him. The problem is Mark Zuckerberg has a majority of the controlling shares in Facebook so he can’t be voted out by the board of directors. Not to mention that stepping down doesn’t even appear to be an option he’s considered whether due to ego or obsession.

    Users aren’t going to wait years for Facebook to right itself. If Facebook continues to go down this road with its leadership taking little to no actual responsibility could we see Facebook become the next MySpace? All it would take is for another platform to come along to do what Facebook does, but only better. While not a small task, it has been done before.

     
  • Geebo 9:28 am on April 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Massachussetts   

    Lawsuit by underage victim to proceed against Backpage 

    Lawsuit by underage victim to proceed against Backpage

    Before FOSTA has been signed into law, a federal judge in Massachusetts has ruled that a lawsuit against Backpage can proceed against them. A woman who was trafficked on Backpage when she was 15, has been trying to sue the website claiming that they knowingly facilitated child prostitution on their platform. The U.S. District Court Judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence showing Backpage allegedly altered the ad between submission and publication.

    Sadly, two similar lawsuits by underage trafficking victims were dismissed by the same judge once again citing section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA has long been the statute that Backpage had hidden behind to avoid prosecution and lawsuits from the multitudes of trafficking victims that have been sold into sexual slavery through their ads. Thankfully, that provision of the CDA is about to go away as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) is awaiting a signature from the President to be passed into law.

    While some in the tech industry have decried that FOSTA is the end of the internet as we know it, we once again have to remind them the legislation has been specifically worded to target websites that are knowingly facilitating human trafficking. We also have to remind them that legislators wouldn’t have had to gotten involved if Backpage didn’t insist on making the vast majority of their money through such a heinous practice.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on March 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Humana,   

    Is retail’s venture into healthcare dangerous? 

    Is retail's venture into healthcare dangerous?

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that retail giant Walmart may be in talks to acquire one of the nation’s leading health insurers in Humana. If the acquisition talks were to be true, this would just be the latest in a series of talks between retail outlets and healthcare providers, but is it a good trend?

    Currently, pharmacy chain CVS is in talks to purchase Aetna, and Amazon has been looking to get into the pharmacy management business. With these acquisitions are we headed to a future if a healthcare cabal where only a few corporations can control reimbursement rates? It does seem to appear that way.

    With retail heading towards a duopoly between Walmart and Amazon these two companies once again are showing signs of trying to be all things to all people by also trying to control healthcare. If this trend continues, we may be seeing a single payer healthcare system in our future, but not one administered by the government for all citizens but rather by the profit driven iron fist of a possible single corporate entity for only those who could possibly afford it.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on March 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Airbnb being used in craigslist scam 

    Airbnb being used in craigslist scam

    Short-term rental platform Airbnb has had its own problems lately when it comes to local zoning laws and ever-increasing pressure from the hospitality industry. Now, they find themselves as unwilling participants in a rental scam that unsurprisingly takes place on craigslist, and like most craigslist scams, it’s a new twist on an old scam.

    A report out of Minneapolis is stating that a property listed on Airbnb for temporary stays is being listed on craigslist as a more permanent rental. The craigslist scammers copied the Airbnb ad almost word for word and stole all the pictures used in the original ad. The scammers then tried to get a victim to wire them $2,100 to an out-of-state bank. This isn’t the only type of Airbnb scam perpetrated through craigslist as this video shows.

    As stated before, this is a twist on an old scam where craigslist scammers would copy entire ads from the websites of realtors of homes for sale, then list the properties on craigslist as rentals in order to try to scam people out of phony deposit or background check fees depending on how ambitious the scammers are.

    As with any online transaction, never wire money anywhere. It’s too easy for the scammers to remain anonymous and make off with your money. In too many instances the money lost is all the money the victims had in trying to find a home for their families who are then left penniless and without a roof over their heads.

     
  • Geebo 9:07 am on March 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , housing   

    Facebook accused of discriminatory housing ads 

    Facebook accused of discriminatory housing ads

    It appears that Facebook is trying to fend off controversy from all sides these days. Not only is it facing lawsuits over the data they’ve been allegedly collecting from Android users, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to testify himself before Congress over the purported Cambridge Analytical data breach. Now to compound matters for Facebook, they’re being sued for allegedly allowing certain demographics from seeing certain housing ads.

    Four fair housing groups are suing Facebook claiming that their ad program allows groups such as single parent families, disabled veterans and minorities from to be excluded from seeing housing ads based on users likes and groups. According to the complainants, they created a phony realty firm and Facebook had a preset list of options of who could be excluded from being shown the ads.

    Choosing from a list of preset options, the fictitious landlord was able to exclude people with interests in the “National Association for Bikers with a Disability,” “Disabled American Veterans,” “Disability.gov,” and “Disabled Parking Permit.” Facebook estimated that the ad would reach 1.2 million people, the group reported.

    Facebook denies the charges and says the lawsuit has no merit, however, this isn’t the first time Facebook has come under fire for discriminatory ad practices. Late last year they were accused of allowing job ads to be shown only to a certain age group.

    For all intents and purposes, Facebook is a monopoly as they virtually have no competition in the social media space. If they continue to engage in such practices like they’re being accused of, how long will it be before the government decides to either heavily regulate them or break them up? Considering the unchecked power they wield it can’t come soon enough.

     
  • Geebo 9:06 am on March 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andrew Turley, , ,   

    Why you shouldn’t mourn the craigslist personals 

    Why you shouldn't mourn the craigslist personals

    As we posted last week, craigslist shuttered its personals section in anticipation of FOSTA being signed into law. Many in tech circles are lamenting the loss of craigslist personals as if it was some place where wholesome couples would meet so they could attend church and ice cream socials together. What they’re conveniently forgetting is that the personals section of craigslist had a much more sinister undercurrent that not much of the public was aware of.

    For example, recently, 30-year-old Andrew Turley was sentenced to 60 years behind bars for trying to sell his 4-year-old daughter for the purposes of sex on craigslist. According to investigators, Turley would drug his daughter to make her compliant. After police responded to his craigslist ad they found his daughter in a ‘groggy state’ and appeared to be under the influence of some type of drug.

    Sadly, this is not just a one-off occurrence as the Craigslist personals have a long history of this type of activity. This wasn’t even the youngest victim to ever be sold through craigslist as an Idaho man tried selling a 3-year-old girl through craigslist. In either case, none of the ads were flagged by craigslist’s community policing. For those of you who try to say that this will drive the predators underground, that’s the whole point. Without such a platform like craigslist, predators will have one less highly trafficked platform to find their victims and reprehensible parents won’t have the marketplace to sell their kids.

     
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