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  • Geebo 10:07 am on April 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human trafficking,   

    Are traffickers targeting your kids through social media? 

    Are traffickers targeting your kids through social media?

    When an a news article or blog post asks a question in the headline the answer is usually no. However, with this blog post the answer is actually yes, but with more context then these type of articles would normally give. Recently, the tabloid-ish New York Post recently ran an article entitled “Sex traffickers are using social media to target children.” The Post article seems to imply that with Backpage’s closure, pimps and traffickers are turning to social media to recruit new victims. While I’m sure that there has been an increase in traffickers turning to social media, this is nothing new.

    Pimps and traffickers have been targeting children on social media since at least the days of MySpace. More recently, traffickers troll apps like Instagram and Snapchat in order to approach potential new victims. Usually these culprits promise their victims lives of wealth. Sometimes they’ll tell their victims that they could be models or singers, or they’ll approach their victims romantically then proclaim to be their boyfriend when they’ve told other victims the same thing.

    So what can parents do to prevent their kids from falling under the control of a pimp? One of the best thing to do is monitor your child’s social media accounts. Question any comment or message left by someone that you think is inappropriate. If your child can’t identify someone on their friends list as someone they know in real life then that friend probably doesn’t need to be on their friends list. You may also want to consider holding on to your child’s devices at bedtime, this way no one can be messaging your kids at night away from the eyes of parents.

    The most important thing you can do is talk to your children and let them know that there are people online who are looking to take advantage of them and how they can recognize the signs. In most cases, all it takes is a little parental diligence to keep your kids from ending up in the hands of these modern-day slave traders.

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

    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: , , , , Human trafficking,   

    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 9:04 am on April 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Human trafficking, , ,   

    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 8:59 am on April 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Charles McFee, , Human trafficking, 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 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking, , 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 9:29 am on March 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chris Cox, , Human trafficking, Section 230   

    Author of Section 230: 230 was not to facilitate people doing bad things on the internet 

    Author of Section 230: 230 was not to facilitate people doing bad things on the internet

    With Congress about to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a number of pundits in tech circles have decried the amendment as the end of free speech on the internet and various other reasons why the sky is falling. However, one of the section’s authors says that Section 230 is not being used the way it was intended. Former Congressman Chris Cox recently said that Section 230 “was to help clean up the Internet, not to facilitate people doing bad things on the Internet.”

    Cox helped wrote the legislation back in 1994 when a financial company tried to sue the platform Prodigy for libel when one of its users had accused the financial company of fraud. Since Prodigy moderated its content for language the courts ruled against Prodigy. Cox wanted protection for platforms like Prodigy from third-party users. The fact that we’re talking about Prodigy, a long dead internet portal, should show you how antiquated Section 230 truly is.

    As you may know, Section 230 is about to be amended to include language that would help prosecute websites and platforms that knowingly facilitate human trafficking such as Backpage is accused of doing. Congressman Cox even says that websites connected to unlawful activity should not be protected by Section 230. Let’s also not forget that we’re talking about real human lives that are being peddled through Backpage and if Backpage would be forced to curtail its activities it would greatly reduce the number of women and children being sold as slaves in the US. Without Backpage, we wouldn’t have every two-bit wannabe pimp thinking they can make themselves some money just by getting some girls and advertising them on Backpage. While it wouldn’t solve the trafficking crisis completely, it would go a long way in keeping a lot of people safe from the life that Backpage gets rich off of.

     
  • Geebo 8:59 am on March 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Human trafficking, ,   

    Anti-Backpage trafficking bill on track to become law 

    Anti-Backpage trafficking bill set to become law

    Late last month, the US House of Representatives passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA. Yesterday, the US Senate voted almost unanimously to advance their version of the act known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA. It’s expected to be passed by the Senate later today and then signed into law later this week. SESTA/FOSTA would allow the victims of online sex trafficking to seek damages against sites like Backpage who allegedly knowingly assisted in the trafficking trade.

    As has been mentioned before, SESTA/FOSTA amends section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which Backpage has used to claim that their role in the sex trade is protected free speech under the law. A number of opponents to SESTA/FOSTA claim that this amendment will mean the death of free speech on the internet as we know it, however, that is simply not true. As this piece on political blog The Hill points out, “the legislation requires proof that a website “knowingly” assisted, facilitated, or supported sex trafficking when it entered into a venture with a sex trafficker.”

    All the evidence that has been uncovered by journalists and a congressional investigation seem to point out that Backpage knowingly engaged and assisted sex traffickers by advising them on what to put in their ads. This is and has never been an issue about free speech, but rather the freedom of the women and children who have been trafficked on Backpage. Most arguments against the purported legislation are just fear-mongering and histrionics.

     
  • Geebo 9:58 am on February 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Human trafficking, ,   

    Major bill passed to help fight online human trafficking 

    Major bill passed to help fight online human trafficking

    Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA as it’s better known. This act would allow prosecutors and victims of online trafficking to either prosecute, or seek damages against websites that knowingly assisted in the trafficking of women and children. To be more specific, FOSTA is designed to allow sites like Backpage, who allegedly worked with traffickers to make the ads of trafficked victims appear more legitimate, to stop hiding behind the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

    As you may know, the CDA was the statute that Backpage hid behind for many years claiming that the ads on their website for ‘adult services’ were protected speech and that they had no control over what appeared in these ads. Time and again prosecutors and trafficking victims were stymied in seeking justice against Backpage because of the outdated terms of the CDA. However, after the House overwhelmingly passed FOSTA yesterday, Backpage became one major step closer to losing that protection that has afforded them to make millions of dollars from the sales of women and children into slavery. What’s next is for the bill to be approved by the Senate which has its own version of the bill called “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” or SESTA.

    While many tech pundits and insiders claim FOSTA and SESTA are potential internet censorship laws, they have no one to blame but Backpage. It shouldn’t have had to come to this, but Backpage insisted on making their millions in one of the most unethically ways possible. Had Backpage not blamed everything on third parties and used the CDA as it was not intended, further legislation would not have been needed. Not to mention that many of these pundits and insiders complain when the law has not caught up to technology when it comes to innovation, but use a 22-year-old law to defend the practice of online trafficking as free speech. 22 years ago, the internet was a far cry from what it is today. Why shouldn’t the law be allowed to reflect that?

     
  • Geebo 9:59 am on February 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: American Airlines, Denice Miracle, Human trafficking, ,   

    Airline employee saves girls from human trafficking scheme 

    Airline employee saves girls from human trafficking scheme

    Late last week, an observant employee of American Airlines at a Sacramento, California, airport is credited with saving two underage girls from potentially falling into the hands of a human trafficker. The airline agent, Denice Miracle, noticed that the two girls, ages 17 and 15, had one way tickets to New York and no ID. The agent felt something was wrong and contacted the Sheriff’s department.

    The girls weren’t even aware their tickets had no return trip. They told police that the man who allegedly bought the tickets for them promised them $2000 for a modeling job, a common tactic used by traffickers. When the girls were told they were probably about to be trafficked they said they wouldn’t let that happen, not realizing they would have had no choice in the matter once they got to New York.

    The purported trafficker had approached the girls through social media which is another common trick of traffickers. The traffickers will prey upon a teenager’s vanity, promising them a lot of money quickly. In reality the traffickers are getting ready to put them out on the street or on Backpage. The fact that the girls had no ID with them also speaks volume as it would make it more difficult for trafficking victims to escape their captors without ID.

    Parents should talk to their kids not only about the dangers of talking to strangers on social media, but to be very wary of anyone offering them large sums of money for some kind of modeling or entertainment job. Legitimate talent or modeling agents would not try to circumvent parents for fear of legal repercussions.

     
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