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  • Geebo 9:15 am on June 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , , ,   

    Backpage lawsuit against Cook County Sheriff dismissed 

    Backpage lawsuit against Cook County Sheriff dismissed

    Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart oversees law enforcement in the second most populous county in the country. He has long been an outspoken opponent of the website formerly known as Backpage. Not only did he dedicate a large part of his career to help rescue victims of Backpage’s trafficking, he also often took to the media to try to inform the public about how much of a menace Backpage actually was. Sheriff Dart was obviously relieved when Backpage was finally shuttered.

    One of Sheriff Dart’s more controversial acts against Backpage happened in 2015 when Sheriff Dart wrote to both MasterCard and VISA requesting they stop letting Backpage use their cards as forms of payment for Backpage’s adult ads. The problem with this is Sheriff Dart did not write to these companies as a private citizen but instead as the Cook County Sheriff by using official county letterhead. Backpage saw this as a violation of their right to free speech and a government intrusion. A lawsuit was then filed against Dart by Backpage and an injunction was placed on Sheriff Dart stating he could no longer contact the credit card companies. However, the damage had already been done as the two companies ceased doing business with Backpage. Many consider this decision by VISA and MasterCard as the beginning of the end for Backpage.

    Now, with Backpage being seized by the Federal Government and former CEO Carl Ferrer admitting that Backpage was well aware of its role in human trafficking, the lawsuit against Sheriff Dart has been dismissed. This past Thursday, a federal judge dismissed the suit with Sheriff Dart claiming that the dismissal contained a “certain level of vindication”. While we may not have always agreed with Sheriff Dart’s way of doing things, we’re happy to see that Backpage won’t be able to claim a victory over this tireless defender of the people.

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

    Is there a new site trying to usurp Backpage’s trafficking throne? 

    Is there a new site trying to usurp Backpage's trafficking throne?

    Recently, one of New York’s less than trustworthy and more opinionated newspapers ran an article claiming online sex trafficking hasn’t changed since the federal seizure of Backpage. The article claims an ‘unnamed source’ within the NYPD saying there has been no slow down since Backpage was shuttered. This newspaper seems to be one of the outlets that believe the ‘consenting adult’ myth as they quote a john who said that prostitution should be legal since gambling and marijuana are legal in some places. The problem with that analogy is marijuana and casino chips aren’t being repeatedly sold against their will.

    However, the article then goes on to not only mention a new website but links to the new site as well that is supposedly the sleazy heir apparent to Backpage. We’re not going to link to the article, the website, or mention the website by name, but the site looks like it’s trying to copy Backpage even right down to its site design. The ads on this new site seem to be even more blatant than the usually coded ads that appeared on Backpage. This new site also has the usual disclaimer that ads related to human trafficking will not be tolerated asking ad posters to click on a button that says ‘I agree’. They’re even trying to be more shifty than Backpage was. In my research, I was unable to find any information regarding who owns the new platform. Their social media presence is almost non-existent, however, I was able to find some information that the site does business in Texas although reports say the website itself is allegedly hosted in Canada.

    While the New York tabloids may be decrying that online sex trafficking has continued unabated since the closure of Backpage, it’s still too early to really tell. It’s only been less than two months since Backpage was seized so it’s still too early to say that it’s business as usual. At its height, Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking in the US by most reports and had the financial backing of a media company. In today’s post-FOSTA world it will be almost impossible for a website to be as lucrative as Backpage was at its zenith.

    The online sex trafficking trade has been severely splintered. While it may continue to exist it will never be at the level it was when Backpage was running things. This is a good thing despite protests to the contrary as it causes fewer victims to be trafficked against their will. While the fight against online human trafficking is a constant battle, there will be fewer casualties in the future.

     
  • Geebo 9:05 am on May 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 13th Amendment, Backpage, , Florida Abolitionist, ,   

    Anti-trafficking group uses new approach to sue Backpage 

    Anti-trafficking group uses new approach to sue Backpage

    Backpage has been no stranger to lawsuits in its controversial history. In the past, many of its lawsuits have been dismissed due to protections afforded them by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which stated that a website was not responsible for third-party content posted by a user. Even with the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) being passed into law and the criminal charges being filed against Backpage, a lawsuit win against Backpage still isn’t a slam dunk. However, an anti-trafficking group from Florida is trying a new tactic in an attempt to ensure judicial success against the website.

    In one of their arguments, Florida Abolitionist is claiming that Backpage violated the 13th Amendment rights of the women FA is representing by allowing them to be trafficked on Backpage’s listings. For those of you who may not be familiar with the 13th Amendment, it’s the Amendment that was supposed to end slavery in the United States. The text of the Amendment states…

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    While the 13th Amendment was designed to end slavery in the wake of the Civil War, the Amendment has rarely been used to show a violation of rights has been committed. With Former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer recently admitting that Backpage was complicit in the practice of sex trafficking, maybe we’ll see a new landmark case where the 13th Amendment is instrumental in addressing the future rights of trafficking victims.

     
  • Geebo 9:09 am on May 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , Digital Sin City, , , study, university of minnesota   

    Study: Craigslist caused a surge in human trafficking 

    Study: Craigslist caused a surge in human trafficking

    Ever since craigslist stopped hosting adult ads, and even more since the seizure of Backpage, a number of people have said without these sites it will be more difficult for law enforcement to find and rescue the victims of human trafficking. However, because of sites like craigslist and Backpage human trafficking increased in whatever market these sites entered. That is according to a new joint study published by both the University of Minnesota and New York University.

    According to the study entitled “The Digital Sin City: An Empirical Study of Craigslist’s Impact on Prostitution Trends”, researchers found that in a period between 1999 to 2008, anytime craigslist entered a community, prostitution and human trafficking activity would increase. While the study said this included ‘consensual’ sex workers it also noted that craigslist led to a greater criminal exploitation of human trafficking victims. The study even mentions that the outdated section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1999 is what kept this exploitation going.

    Sites like craigslist and Backpage cannot be both the cause of and solution to human trafficking simultaneously. At some point, the line has to be drawn to keep future victims from being bought and sold into sexual slavery. While some traffickers may be forced underground laws like FOSTA will cause a massive drop in online trafficking since women and children will no longer be able to be peddled in such a blatant manner.

     
  • Geebo 9:22 am on April 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , , ,   

    Leading Backpage opponent wants lawsuit dropped 

    Leading Backpage opponent wants lawsuit dropped

    Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart

    Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart was one of the leading voices in the fight against Backpage. Not only did Sheriff Dart do everything within his power to combat the human trafficking committed through Backpage by conducting various stings and rescue operations, but he also stepped outside of his job to convince credit card companies to stop accepting payments for Backpage ads. While it wasn’t a deathblow for Backpage, it did hurt them where it mattered most, in the wallet. Backpage fought back against Dart by filing a lawsuit over lost profits due to Dart’s interference and had a restraining order placed against him which prevented Dart from further contacting the credit card companies.

    Now, with the federal seizure of Backpage, Sheriff Dart is asking that the lawsuit against him be dismissed. Dart is now arguing that since Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has admitted that Backpage was predicated on human trafficking and money laundering this should render Backpage’s lawsuit against Dart null and void. Dart himself called the lawsuit a fraud and that it was not based in fact or law.

    While some of Sheriff Dart’s tactics can be considered questionable, the closure of Backpage could not have been done without him. Because of his constant vocal opposition to Backpage in the country’s second most populous county, the Backpage situation may never have received the media attention it did and we would still probably be trying to make people more aware of the problem. Sheriff Dart should be commended for his work against Backpage trafficking and this suit should be dropped immediately since it came to light that Backpage was complicit in the sex trade all along.

     
  • Geebo 9:07 am on April 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , ,   

    Backpage CEO pleads guilty to human trafficking charges 

    Backpage CEO pleads guilty to human trafficking charges

    Former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    In a previous post, we wondered what Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer’s role was in the Federal seizure of Backpage since his name did not appear on the 93-count indictment against other Backpage heads and employees. Now we know as it has been announced that prior to the seizure of Backpage, Ferrer pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution.

    Yesterday, Federal authorities announced that they took Ferrer to three separate states to plead guilty against the various charges against him in Texas, Arizona and California. Ferrer has also agreed to testify against Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. In his pleas Ferrer admitted that Backpage was well aware that the ads on its site were used to facilitate prostitution.

    “I have long been aware,” Ferrer wrote, “that the great majority of these advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services (which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada).”

    Ferrer also admitted that Backpage was used to launder money after the credit card companies stopped accepting payments for Backpage.

    “I worked with my co-conspirators to find ways to fool credit card companies into believing that Backpage-associated charges were being incurred on different websites,” as well as route Backpage money through seemingly unrelated entities, and to use companies which processed crypto-currencies.”

    This virtually nullifies any kind of ‘free speech’ argument Backpage could possibly present in court.

    When asked for his reaction on Ferrer’s arrest, Geebo CEO Greg Collier issued the following statement…

    With the recent announcement of former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer admitting that Backpage was complicit in not only promoting prostitution through their website, but also laundering money, we here at Geebo wish to earnestly thank Mr. Ferrer for doing the right thing. While we imagine it couldn’t have been easy for Mr. Ferrer to make the decision to plead guilty to human trafficking and laundering charges while facing possible jail time and a forfeiture of substantial assets, we applaud him for taking the steps necessary in order to shutter what was once called the country’s largest online avenue of human trafficking. While we have been critical of Mr. Ferrer’s practices in the past, Backpage’s closure could not have been done without him. Many mothers will now not have their daughters sold into slavery on Backpage thanks to his actions.

    In exchange for his plea, Ferrer is looking at a maximum of five years in prison and forfeiture of his corporate assets.

     
  • Geebo 9:49 am on April 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , , , ,   

    Geebo: Stemming the tide of human trafficking at home 

    Geebo: Stemming the tide of human trafficking at home

    An example of many of the trafficking ads we’ve been receiving lately.

    As I’m sure you’ve read, Backpage.com was seized this past Friday by the Federal government. Two of its founders were not only indicted, but are currently sitting in jail. From the beginning, Backpage’s business model was based on the sexual slave trade, collecting as much as 99% of their revenue from the ads placed by pimps and traffickers. While making hundreds of millions of dollars in such an illicit way, the seizure of Backpage was the only logical way this could have ended.

    Since Backpage’s closure, Geebo has been receiving a torrent of ‘adult’ ad submissions for review. The keyword in that sentence is ‘review’ as Geebo has always reviewed ads for objectionable content. Thanks to the great software used under the hood at Geebo and the human curation done by our moderation staff, we have never allowed and never will allow Geebo to become a haven for those who would sell women and children into sexual servitude. Since day one and with little fanfare, Geebo has committed itself to keep its ads free from the likes posted on Backpage while maintaining a profitable business. Toward that end, Geebo was an industry trend setter when CEO Greg Collier made the decision to remove personal ads from the site in 2010 in order to prevent the ads from being abused by traffickers, where on other sites many victims are tricked into being trafficked through their personal ads.

    Another great thing about Geebo is that these decisions weren’t made due to public pressure or pending legislation. These decisions were made out of something that appears to be rare in the industry these days, and that is common human decency. Craigslist shut down there adult services section only after massive public pressure from the media, and closed their personals after the passage of FOSTA/SESTA, which is almost an admission that trafficking was still taking place on their personals. When the credit card companies cut off Backpage, they became so desperate to stay in business they started accepting payment for prostitution ads in cash, Bitcoin and gift cards. If they hadn’t been raided by Federal authorities there’s no doubt that Backpage would still be collecting money for these ads. Geebo shows that a classifieds site can be run ethically without having to resort to questionable ads designed to make money off of the suffering of others.

     
  • Geebo 9:09 am on April 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, , , ,   

    Where in the world is Carl Ferrer? 

    Where in the world is Carl Ferrer?

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    Yesterday, the 93-count indictment against seven Backpage employees was finally made public. As previously noted, Backpage co-founder Michael Lacey was already known to have been named in the indictment. What we know now is the remaining six people being indicted for various charges related to the Federal seizure of Backpage. One of the expected names to be listed on the indictment was the other co-founder of Backpage, Jim Larkin, and his name is listed second on the indictment. However, there is one name that’s missing from the list of the seven Backpage employees who you would think would be at or near the top of the list.

    Thanks to the AIM Group, we have a list of those who have been indicted. They include…

    — Michael Lacey, founder of Backpage

    — James Larkin, a cofounder

    — Scott Spear, EVP of a Backpage parent company and one-time part-owner

    — John “Jed” Brunst, CFO of a Backpage parent company and one-time part owner

    — Dan Hyer, the company’s sales and marketing director

    — Andrew Padilla, operations manager

    — Joye Vaught, assistant operations manager

    In case you’re still wondering whose name is not appearing on the list it would be that of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. However, while not currently under indictment, Ferrer is referenced to several times in the indictment by the initials “C.F.” and not always refered to in the best light. For example, C.F. is said to have rejected an implementation that would admonish Backpage users if they used search terms that would indicate they were looking for a child prostitute. This is the same Carl Ferrer who decided to just ignore a Congressional subpoena in 2015.

    This obviously leads to the question, is Carl Ferrer the reason the seizure took place in the first place? The feds could have had a big enough carrot to dangle in front of Ferrer as he was still facing money laundering charges in the state of California. If that’s the case Ferrer should be applauded somewhat for allowing the internet’s largest avenue for human trafficking facilitation to be taken down, but let’s keep in mind that in the past, Ferrer has never had the best of intentions. One also has to wonder if Ferrer may have been granted immunity from prosecution if he turned on his seven cohorts. Although, I would imagine this wouldn’t make him immune to any civil litigation which probably would hurt Ferrer more than any prison sentence.

    The entire indictment can be read below.

    Backpage Indictment by trenchreynolds on Scribd

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

    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.

    • B F 5:16 am on May 31, 2018 Permalink

      What about us willing girls that are now unemployed.

    • Geebo 8:16 am on May 31, 2018 Permalink

      With all due respect, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has admitted that Backpage broke the law by not only knowingly accepting money for ads where the majority of girls and women were being trafficked against their will, but also admitted that Backpage illegally laundered money in order to try to hide profits from the government.

      While some claim that Backpage made sex workers safer that is simply not true as way too many victims were robbed, sexually assaulted and murdered by Backpage users. That’s not even taking into account the number of victims that were abused and killed by their pimps and traffickers.

      Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and if we’re not trying to protect the most vulnerable among us, what kind of society are we?

  • Geebo 8:59 am on April 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Backpage, 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.

     
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