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  • Geebo 8:12 am on September 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Desiree Robinson, Human trafficking   

    Mother of young Backpage murder victim testifies before Congress 

    Mother of young Backpage murder victim testifies before Congress

    While companies like Facebook and Google argue that any amendment to the Communications Decency Act could open them up to potential lawsuits, one mother was bringing the realities of Backpage to the heart of our nation’s capital.

    In late 2016, 16-year-old Desiree Robinson was murdered just outside of Chicago. She was a runaway who was being turned out for prostitution on Backpage. When 32-year-old Antonio Rosales couldn’t pay her, he allegedly brutally murdered her instead. After her death, Desiree’s pimp tried to get other women to work for him and allegedly said “Now that she’s gone, I got no money coming in.”

    Desiree’s mother, Yvonne Ambrose, brought Desiree’s tragic story to the floor of the Senate this past Tuesday in testimony over the proposed amendment to the Communications Decency Act which would hold websites like Backpage liable for facilitating sex trafficking.

    “I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy,” Ambrose told the committee, about having to bury her child. “And I pray that Desiree’s life can make a difference so that no one else has to endure this pain.”

    Sadly, Desiree’s story is just one of many where Backpage has had a hand in the murder or sexual assault of the girls and women that are reportedly being trafficked on their pages. They need to be held responsible for the blood that’s on their hands and the only way to do this is to amend the Communications Decency Act of 1996, an archaic law that was almost out of date as soon as the ink was dry.

    If you support the amendment to the act please use the hashtag #AmendTheCDA.

     
  • Geebo 12:26 pm on September 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human trafficking, , The Rights Lab, University of Nottingham   

    British university hopes to end slavery by 2030 

    British university hopes to end slavery by 2030

    The University of Nottingham in England has gathered 100 academics from at least 15 disciplines in order to bring about the end of slavery worldwide using what they call The Rights Lab. The project intends to do for slavery what the World Health Organization did for smallpox. They’re taking on all forms of slavery from sex trafficking to slave labor and hope to eliminate slavery worldwide by the year 2030.

    On of their more ambitious projects is what they call their ‘Slavery from Space’ program. The intent is to use satellite technology to identify brick kilns in India which uses a massive amount of slave labor. The program isn’t just about identifying slaves, it’s also trying to find them the correct resources once their emancipated as trafficking victims often receive little to no counseling and often find themselves in situations to be trafficked again.

    Let’s not forget that this is not just a problem that happens in other countries. The United States is one of the top destinations for recruiting and delivering the victims of trafficking in slavery. Thanks to sites like Backpage, anyone can be a trafficker as long as they have the money to pay Backpage with a gift card to place an ad. So for the price you pay for a drink at Starbucks, someone else is using the same amount of money to continue slavery in America.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Human trafficking   

    When it comes to ‘Don’t be evil’, Google gives Backpage a pass 

    When it comes to 'Don't be evil', Google gives Backpage a pass

    Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, is one of the few nationally known journalists who has continually reported on the transgressions of Backpage when it comes to Backpage’s part in the sex trade. In one of his recent columns, Kristoff goes after an even bigger fish in the polluted waters of internet sex trafficking, Google. The Mountain View, California, search king opposes the proposed amendments to the Communications Decency Act that would remove the protections from prosecution that sites like Backpage have been hiding behind, otherwise known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.

    Kristoff claims that Google has an unfounded fear when it comes to their argument of a slippery slope with Google claiming the new amendment to the CDA could open them up to frivolous lawsuits. However, a spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited children points out the new legislation is crafted in such a way that it only applies to those sites which are directly receiving money from traffickers.

    “This bill only impacts bad-actor websites,” notes Yiota Souras, general counsel at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “You don’t inadvertently traffic a child.”

    Yet the majority of Silicon Valley is opposing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act mostly out of fear that it will somehow affect their right to free speech, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no slippery slope here. There is no downside. I think what the mostly insular tech community forgets is there are actual people being trafficked and sold into sexual slavery on sites like Backpage and aren’t just faceless pixels.

    Instead of worrying about Backpage’s ‘freedom of speech’ these tech companies should be more worried about the fact that many of the women and girls being trafficked on Backpage have no freedom at all in a country that prides itself on liberty.

     
  • Geebo 8:56 am on August 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Human trafficking, ,   

    Court gives go ahead to prosecute Backpage heads 

    Court gives go ahead to prosecute Backpage heads

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    For the better part of a year, the state of California has been trying to prosecute the CEO and founders of Backpage on prostitution and money laundering charges. Attorneys for Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin have repeatedly claimed the three men are protected by the First Amendment. After their first arrest, the three men did have pimping charges against them dismissed, however, the state came back and charged them with money laundering in addition to pimping.

    After their second arrest, the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations would gather evidence the committee says shows Backpage knowingly edited their ads to hide any references to underage girls being advertised on their site for sex. Another crushing blow to Backpage was when the Washington Post uncovered documentation which claimed Backpage was copying and soliciting ads for their adult sections. Backpage’s facade of free speech was now crumbling.

    Yesterday, the Sacramento County Superior Court overruled defense dismissal motions, meaning prosecution against Ferrer, Larkin and Lacy can proceed. The trio is looking at 25 counts each of money laundering and conspiracy to use Backpage to profit from sex trafficking. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has promised to prosecute this case vigorously.

    “Today’s victory doesn’t exact justice just yet against those who would prey on vulnerable young women and men. But it brings us a step closer.”

    If it can be proven Backpage knowingly edited their ads to allow underage girls to be trafficked on their site, it negates their protection under the Communications Decency Act. The CDA states that websites aren’t responsible for the content posted by users, however, if the Backpage was editing the ads, that makes Backpage the content creators themselves, which not only opens them up for further prosecution but lawsuits from their victims as well.

    Hopefully, this ruling by the Sacramento County Superior Court is a sign of things to come where the victim’s of Backpage sex trafficking can finally receive the justice they deserve.

     
  • Geebo 9:31 am on August 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking, Rebecca Portnoff, UC Berkely   

    UC Berkeley student develops way to track human trafficking rings through Bitcoin 

    UC Berkeley student develops way to track human trafficking rings through Bitcoin

    Not too along ago, the major credit card companies in the U.S. stopped Backpage from accepting payments through credit and debit cards for Backpage’s sex trafficking ads. Backpage then started accepting the cryptocurrency Bitcoin for placement of their ads. Now, a Ph.D. candidate from UC Berkeley has come up with a system to track human trafficking rings using Bitcoin.

    Bitcoin is not as anonymous as people may think. Anytime a Bitcoin transaction is made, it’s registered in a worldwide ledger that is public information. While the Bitcoin users aren’t identified by name, it is easy to track transactions by an ID number. This is an oversimplification of the Bitcoin process, but technically correct. UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Rebecca Portnoff has developed a system for her dissertation where a Bitcoin transaction can be timed with the placement of a Backpage ad. The timing of the Backpage ad can then be used to match the timing of other ads to determine if they’re being placed by the same Bitcoin user which in turn could identify trafficking rings. In a test, the system was able to be 89% accurate in identifying these rings.

    Since Bitcoin can be used for a number of illegal transactions, this could be a huge boon for law enforcement, not just for human trafficking but other illicit crimes as well.

     
  • Geebo 9:03 am on August 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking, Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017   

    Senate submits amendment to CDA to go after human trafficking websites 

    Senate submits amendment to CDA to go after human trafficking websites

    Yesterday, the Senate submitted a bill that would add an amendment to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that would specifically remove the protection sites like Backpage have hidden behind so they could continue to facilitate the trafficking of women and children in their ads. The bill, sponsored by Ohio Senator Rob Portman, is called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 and would essentially leave the CDA intact as it is except for websites who knowingly engage in sex trafficking. In the Senate’s own investigations, they believe Backpage knowingly edited ads sent to them in order to avoid further scrutiny by law enforcement and the government.

    This couldn’t come soon enough as the victims of sex trafficking have been blocked multiple times from seeking justice against Backpage by the outdated CDA. The Communications Decency Act is 21 years old. The CDA was passed during a time when most of us weren’t even on the internet and the only way you could access it was over a dial-up connection on an expensive PC. Since that time, the internet has grown exponentially and the technology used to access it has vastly exceeded any expectations we had of it in 1996. Yet the CDA has largely remained the same, failing to advance along with the times.

    Those who think this new amendment may restrict free speech on the internet couldn’t be further from the truth. The new bill has language in it which specifically targets sex trafficking sites. According to the Washington Post

    The proposed law would clarify that Section 230 [of the CDA] does not preclude prosecution of state or federal criminal laws dealing with sex trafficking of children; does not prohibit civil suits related to sex trafficking; and ensures federal liability for publishing information designed to facilitate sex trafficking.

    So yes, we can have a free and open internet where the rights of trafficking victims are recognized and their facilitators are punished.

     
  • Geebo 8:59 am on July 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking,   

    Backpage now takes gift cards as payment for trafficking ads 

    Backpage now takes gift cards as payment for trafficking ads

    After having the credit card companies cease doing business with them, forcing them to turn to Bitcoin, Backpage has now made it much easier and more anonymous to purchase sex ads.

    According to an article by the Dallas Morning News, Backpage is now accepting gift cards as payment for their ads for prostitution. The same gift cards you can buy from just about any store in the world, from your high-end retail outlets to your local bargain store.

    How it works is you purchase any one of these gift cards, like iTunes or Starbucks or Target, and give the card number to Backpage. Backpage then allegedly turns around and sells the card number for cash. If this sounds familiar, this is the same way craigslist scammers try to get you to pay them. If they’re not asking you to wire them money, they’re asking you to pay them in gift cards. The obvious problem with this is it breaks a chain in the paper trail. If someone pays for a gift card with cash, that’s a virtually anonymous transaction which makes it more difficult to find the victims of sex trafficking.

    So now it’s even more business as usual at Backpage. Just think, some underage girl is probably going to be sold into sexual slavery by someone who bought an iTunes gift card at Dollar General.

    The devaluation of human life continues at Backpage.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking   

    No, Backpage is not an anti-trafficking tool 

    No, Backpage is not an anti-trafficking tool

    A week after the Washington Post broke the story about how Backpage was allegedly creating and editing ads for prostitution, they have now published an article where some experts have weighed in claiming Backpage is a tool for anti-trafficking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Backpage’s advocates try to say that the controversial website provides a central location for law enforcement to be able to find children who are being trafficked. However that raises the question of how something can be both the cause and solution to a problem. The answer is, it can’t. As has been mentioned several times in the past, Backpage is said to be responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking. Also, Backpage is not as forthcoming to law enforcement as they reportedly claim to be.

    The reality is, if Backpage shuttered their ads for prostitution, in a real way and not their histrionic claims of government censorship, trafficking would drop by a significant amount. Not only would it be one less major avenue for traffickers but it would also discourage would be pimps from finding an easy entry into the world of sex trafficking through Backpage.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on July 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking, ,   

    New documents show Backpage’s alleged lies about sex trafficking ads 

    New documents show Backpage's alleged lies about sex trafficking ads

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    Back in May, we wondered what Backpage could possibly be hiding by asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to order Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee to either return, destroy, or refrain from publishing documents the subcommittee received in its investigation into Backpage and its role in the online sex trade. Now, we may have that answer. The Washington Post recently received documents from a lawsuit unrelated to Backpage that allegedly shows Backpage was not only creating and editing the content of their adult ads, but they were copying ads from competing websites and actively soliciting people to post sex ads on Backpage for free.

    The lawsuit was filed against a company in the Philippines named Avion. Avion was being sued by a real estate site for copying their ads. Documents that were seized by the courts in this lawsuit also showed Avion was allegedly copying sex ads from other sites and posting them to Backpage. Avion was also said to contact people who would post sex ads on other sites and promised they could post their ads for free on Backpage. Normally, it costs for anyone to post ads in Backpage’s dating section where the sex trafficking ads are now said to reside.

    So what does this mean for Backpage? Well, for years, Backpage has been protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA protects websites from prosecution when its users post illegal content. However, if Backpage is actively creating, editing, copying and soliciting this content, that makes them de facto publishers which no longer affords them the protection of the CDA. This in turn could lead to any number of state Attorneys General to prosecute the Backpage cabal of CEO Carl Ferrer and co-founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. Most importantly, it could lead to an inordinate amount of women and children being freed from sexual slavery.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking   

    What is Backpage hiding now? 

    What is Backpage hiding now?

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected an appeal by legally embattled classifieds site Backpage. Backpage had asked the court that the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee should either return, destroy, or refrain from publishing documents the subcommittee received in its investigation into Backpage. Previously a Senate subcommittee had stated that Backpage allegedly had moderators edit ads for prostitution to make them appear more legitimate by having them remove certain keywords that would indicate the person in the ad may be under 18.

    Backpage’s behavior has been more than suspicious since the Senate investigation into alleged criminal acts had started. At first Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer completely ignored a Congressional subpoena stating that business he had overseas was more important. Then when Ferrer finally did appear before the Senate subcommittee there was a lot of fifth amendment pleading. This isn’t even taking into account that Ferrer and Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are all facing criminal charges in the state of California on pimping and money laundering charges.

    So now, the question has to be asked, what is in Backpage’s seized records that they are so afraid of being made public? Is it the proverbial smoking gun that will definitively show that Backpage was knowingly complicit in the sexual slavery of countless women and girls or will it show they were involved in other criminal activity, such as money laundering, because of their involvement in nationwide human trafficking? Lastly, if any type of information like this is revealed, will it finally get the public to wake up to the atrocities Backpage has allegedly been involved in just so they could make a few hundred million dollars?

     
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