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  • Geebo 9:04 am on July 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking, , ,   

    New indictment against Backpage founders show how involved they were in trafficking 

    New indictment against Backpage founders show how involved they were in trafficking

    Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey

    This past Wednesday, a new federal indictment against Backpage and its founders was filed. In this new indictment, the charges of money laundering and facilitating human trafficking remain the same but bolsters the accusations with new evidence. While it was no secret that Backpage was allegedly a willing participant in the sex trade, this new indictment is said to show the lengths that Backpage’s operators would go to in order to make money at the expense of those trafficked.

    AZ Central has a very in-depth article that goes into great detail about the new indictment. What really got to me was how much Backpage was allegedly willing to disregard obvious signs of child sex trafficking. According to the indictment, Backpage once hired an internet safety firm who were said to have found out that ads that contained the phrase “new in town” meant an underage victim was being shuttled from town to town where the victims wouldn’t know anyone and couldn’t get any help. As you might expect, Backpage was said to have ignored this and other warnings.

    Previously, I’ve stated that I don’t think Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey would ever see the inside of a cell even if they were convicted. However, my mind has changed a little on that after reading more about their alleged money laundering. The indictment alleges that Lacey transferred $16.5 million to an overseas bank in an effort to conceal funds. If there’s one thing the Federal Government never wants to miss out on, it’s taxable income no matter how it was made. It was how the feds got Al Capone after all. So maybe there is some hope for justice after all.

     
  • Geebo 9:40 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking, Josh Hawley, missouri   

    Another state seeks damages from Backpage 

    Another state seeks damages from Backpage

    Another state government is looking to make Backpage pay for its lies and claims of ‘free speech’ when it facilitated an untold number of victims being trafficked for sex. Previously, a judge in the state of Washington sanctioned Backpage and ordered them to pay $200,000 to trafficking victims after the attorneys for the victims argued that Carl Ferrer’s admission of guilt contradicts Backpage’s earlier stance of having done nothing wrong. Now, another state is seeking financial recompense from Backpage.

    Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is seeking sanctions and damages against Backpage after Backpage tried suing the state to allegedly try an impede a state investigation into the website. In the lawsuit, Backpage claimed its usual tirade about free speech and how they weren’t aiding in the sale of women and children into sexual slavery. The suit was thrown out after a federal judge ruled that the federal government should not interfere in state investigations. Now, after Backpage’s admission of their role in human trafficking, Attorney General Hawley wants a pretty good chunk of change out of the now defunct website. Hawley is seeking damages for court costs, legal expenses and some amends for the victims of trafficking in the state.

    As I mentioned in my previous post about Backpage, this is the only true way to punish Backpage as I believe it to be highly unlikely that any of the Backpage higher-ups will ever see the inside of a jail cell. Backpage was driven by nothing but greed, now the states are coming to collect. Hopefully, more states will seek sanctions and damages against Backpage so the company’s death can be through a thousand financial cuts.

     
  • Geebo 8:59 am on June 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking,   

    Pa. conference shows the ugly truth about online trafficking 

    Pa. conference shows the ugly truth about online trafficking

    Ever since the shutdown of Backpage I’ve seen a number of increasing articles about how Backpage’s closure has made it less safe for sex workers. I personally find this hard to believe since being advertised on Backpage led so many victims to be assaulted, tortured and killed by either pimps or johns. Backpage made it more convenient for predators of all sorts to find their victims and have them delivered to them like a discount pizza. A human trafficking conference in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania was recently held to show how dangerous Backpage was.

    The conference was held at DeSales University in Upper Sacuon Township and was entitled ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ During the conference a mother of a 15-year-old girl told the story about how her daughter ran away and was approached by another woman who handed her off to a pimp. That pimp then sold the girl for sex 108 days straight on Backpage where she would end up being raped by johns several times a day. Another eye-opening moment from the conference came from a 32-year police veteran who said that cell phones and the internet have put sex workers in even more danger.

    Lt. Detective Donna Gavin, a 32-year Boston Police veteran, who has most recently headed the department’s human trafficking unit, talked about how the Internet, and more specifically cellphones, changed prostitution from a local visible issue to an online, often hidden, crime of violence and exploitation.

    This story reminds me of a human trafficking conference that Geebo CEO Greg Collier and I attended a few years ago in Richmond, Virginia. I got the opportunity to talk to a woman who was the victim of trafficking and was advertised on both craigslist and Backpage. When I saw her sitting by the podium I assumed she was just another dignitary or politician who would talk about how legislation was proceeding within Virginia. When she stood at the podium she then introduced herself as a victim of human trafficking and told us of her harrowing experiences of being sold for sex by a violent pimp. She was barely able to escape that life and still had some psychological issues while trying to integrate back into a free world. Backpage didn’t exactly make things any safer for her and for countless other victims who were advertised against their will for sexual slavery.

    When people say that Backpage made sex work safer I also point them to this New York Times article from 2015 written by a former trafficking victim. She goes on to say how the consenting adult concept is largely a myth.

    I know there are some advocates who argue that women in prostitution sell sex as consenting adults. But those who do are a relatively privileged minority — primarily white, middle-class, Western women in escort agencies — not remotely representative of the global majority. Their right to sell doesn’t trump my right and others’ not to be sold in a trade that preys on women already marginalized by class and race.

    The effort to decriminalize the sex trade worldwide is not a progressive movement. Implementing this policy will simply calcify into law men’s entitlement to buy sex, while decriminalizing pimping will protect no one but the pimps.

    So basically what these Backpage defenders are saying is that they don’t care who gets hurt as long as they get paid.

     
  • Geebo 9:30 am on June 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Global Emancipation Network, , Human trafficking   

    Are online vigilantes needed to fight human trafficking? 

    Are online vigilantes needed to fight human trafficking?

    In fiction, vigilantes are a very entertaining subject. From movies like Boondock Saints to characters like Batman, fictional vigilantes bring justice to those who think they’re above the law. However, historically vigilantes in the real world have been nothing more than lynch mobs looking to further their own agenda. Much like their historical counterparts, online vigilantes tend to be virtual lynch mobs who more often than not target the wrong person as the victim of their ire and end up hurting innocent people in the process. One of the more infamous examples of that was when a Reddit group identified the wrong man as the Boston Marathon bomber. However, one group of white hat hackers are using their technical expertise to fight against human trafficking.

    The Global Emancipation Network is far from a group of ragtag hackers united by a common goal. It was founded by a computer scientist whose resume includes stints with the US Department of Defense, Microsoft, and NASA. The GEN collects information from all over the internet and the dark web in order to share this data with law enforcement agencies all over the world.

    As GEN points out, many law enforcement agencies from around the world either can not or will not devote the necessary resources needed to effectively fight human trafficking. GEN hopes to fill that gap with the information they collect. While it’s a harsh reality, it’s a shame that their services are needed in the first place. However, it’s refreshing to see such a well-organized volunteer community doing the dirty work that needs to be done to help rescue the millions of victims of human trafficking in all of its forms.

     
  • Geebo 9:13 am on June 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human trafficking,   

    WA offers resources to trafficking victims 

    WA offers resources to trafficking victims

    One of the problems with human trafficking is that often the victims don’t know where to turn to get help. Too often they’re treated like criminals along with the pimps and traffickers who sell them. So even when they find themselves at police stations, victims don’t know where to turn to get help. Now, the state of Washington is hoping to correct that problem in their state.

    Washington has always been at the forefront of trying to prevent human trafficking and to help its victims. Unfortunately, the Seattle-Tacoma area has long been a hotbed of human trafficking activity. Recently, the Washington State Government has unveiled a new website that looks to assist victims of human trafficking with getting out from under their traffickers. At WATraffickingHelp.Org trafficking victims can find a list of resources ranging from shelter to legal services to healthcare services and more.

    Just because Backpage is gone, doesn’t mean that trafficking magically disappears even though that was a major step in fighting it. Sadly, not as many states are as proactive in helping victims like Washington is. Hopefully, Washington’s initiative to help victims get their life back will spark other states to do the same.

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

    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 8:54 am on June 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Emily Kennedy, Facesearch, Human trafficking, Marinus Analytics, , Traffic Jam   

    Facial recognition being used to help stop trafficking 

    Facial recognition being used to help stop trafficking

    Previously, we posted about how Amazon’s facial recognition software, called Rekognition, is being sold to police departments around the country. Many civil liberty groups have protested the police use of the software as they feel it is ripe for abuse. However, like many tools, one person’s abuse can be another person’s salvation. One startup is using the Rekognition software to help rescue victims of human trafficking.

    Marinus Analytics is a startup that was founded by CEO Emily Kennedy that develops tools to help stop human trafficking. While attending Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Kenedy developed a program called Traffic Jam that uses artificial intelligence to help identify trafficking victims. What once could take a police investigator days to do, Traffic Jam could do in a fraction of that time. More recently, Marinus Analytics added a feature called Facesearch to Traffic Jam which is based on the Rekognition software. Facesearch allows police to use a photograph of a trafficking victim or missing person to the Traffic Jam database in order to help locate the victim. It’s the science of fantastical TV crime dramas come to life.

    Ms. Kennedy has even said with the federal seizure of Backpage, Traffic Jam will continue to adapt to new online sources. We commend Ms. Kennedy for her dedication and innovation in the fight against human trafficking and we’ll add that it’s refreshing to see a startup try to accomplish real change in the world rather than trying to cash in on whatever the latest social trend is.

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

    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, , , Florida Abolitionist, Human trafficking,   

    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: , , Digital Sin City, Human trafficking, , 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.

     
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