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  • Geebo 10:16 am on November 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Human trafficking,   

    Update on Facebook and Parliament, and Delaware suing to dissolve Backpage’s LLCs 

    Update on Facebook and Parliament, and Delaware suing to dissolve Backpage's LLCs

    First, we have a quick update on the ongoing British Parliament hearing from yesterday involving Facebook. The hearing went almost along the lines as the US Congressional hearing where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified. A number of politicians addressed their concerns with Facebook’s privacy policies and interference by political agitators with Facebook giving little to no information in response. However, according to reports, Parliament may publish the sensitive internal documents that they’ve seized later this week. This could potentially be devastating for Facebook as the documents could show just how complicit Facebook was in allowing the Cambridge Analytica scandal to happen.

    Moving on from Facebook, Backpage was back in the news again recently. As you may know, Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online human trafficking in the US by allowing thinly veiled ads for prostitution on their website. Earlier this year, Backpage was seized by the Federal Government and CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to human trafficking and money laundering charges. One of the last vestiges of Backpage’s existence was that even after their government seizure, Backpage was still incorporated in Delaware as an LLC in good standing and there was little the state government could do to change that. Now, that all seems to be changing.

    After passing a state law back in June, Delaware is now able to dissolve certain LLCs with Backpage being one of them. Last week, Delaware State Attorney General Matt Denn asked the Court of Chancery to dissolve the four LLCs that were related to Backpage. AG Denn argues that Backpage abused their “powers, privileges or existence” under state law. This lawsuit was the first one filed after the passing of the new law in June. This has far-reaching implications that affect more than just Backpage as various other shady operations have hidden under Delaware’s lax corporate tax laws. Hopefully, this means that companies like Backpage are no longer welcome in the First State.

     
  • Geebo 9:12 am on October 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking,   

    Feds trying to seize the house that trafficking built 

    Feds trying to seize the house that trafficking built

    Federal authorities are attempting to seize additional assets from Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. The Department of Justice is seeking the permanent forfeiture of more than $100 million. So far, the DOJ has seized $97 million in assets that included money from bank accounts all over the world including those in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. The DOJ alleges that the Backpage founders used various shell corporations to try to obfuscate their ownership of Backpage.

    One of the major assets the DOJ is trying to seize is a property valued at around $3 million owned by Jim Larkin’s wife. The Property in the Napa Valley area of California is believed to have been repaired and maintained with money that Larkin allegedly made through Backpage’s advertisements for illegal prostitution and trafficking which resulted in money laundering. This is in addition to properties that Larkin has owned in Arizona and Chicago.

    Think about this for a moment. While Larkin was living up in the lap of luxury in California wine country, countless women and girls were being housed in motel room closets or worse by their pimps and traffickers. Many of these victims had to endure endless amounts of violence and physical abuse perpetrated against them by their captors would advertise these victims for sale on Backpage while Jim Larkin was defending Backpage’s ‘right’ to free speech. If Larkin was any more of a villain he would have lit a cigar with a $100 bill right in front of reporters. So, in my opinion, it’s no small amount of justice that Larkin could be facing a fate where he is possibly housed in a room no bigger than that of a cheap motel room. It’s where he belongs.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on October 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human trafficking, , University of Toledo   

    Univ. study shows links between social media and human trafficking 

    Univ. study shows links between social media and human trafficking

    The University of Toledo is an institution known for holding international conferences on human trafficking. So it should come as no surprise that they were asked by the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission to undertake a study on how social media is used in grooming human trafficking victims. Now you might be the type of person who would ask why a study like that would be needed since there have been plenty of instances where traffickers have found victims on social media. Well, the study goes a little deeper than that.

    The University’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute recently released the findings of their study which delves into the nitty-gritty about how traffickers groom their victims in order for parents to be more aware of the possible dangers. For example, the study lists the kind of language used by children that would attract human traffickers like “Nobody gets me”, “I am so ugly”, and “My life sucks”, to name a few. The study also gives tips to parents on what language the traffickers might use to gain the trust of their children such as “I’ll make your life better”, and “I’ll make you successful.”

    Dr. Celia Williamson, the founder of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, was quoted as saying…

    “Parents who are educated can wage a worthy defense against potential recruitment and recruitment of their youth online,” Williamson said. “Parents who work to build healthy, open and communicative relationships are more likely to have youth that share information about where they go and who they talk to online.”

    Talk to your kids about adults who try to lure them away from home with promises of money and fame. You may think you’re kids are too young to talk with them about dangers like this but the traffickers don’t think they’re too young at all. So you might want to have that talk with them before the traffickers do. You may also want to keep a close watch on their social media activity. You may trust your child with how they behave online but you can’t trust those looking to exploit them. It’s not a violation of trust if you check up on them but a matter of their protection.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on October 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brett Kavanaugh, , Human trafficking, Joel Kaplan   

    Is Facebook falling apart at the seams? 

    Is Facebook falling apart at the seams?

    Once again, it has been less than a stellar week for social media juggernaut Facebook. First, there was the latest data leak which exposed 50 million users accounts. Then came the lawsuit against Facebook that alleges they had a hand in the trafficking of a then 15-year-old girl from Houston. While those were the main headline grabbers of the week, Facebook is also facing a few lesser controversies, both internal and external.

    But first, we go back to the lawsuit story and Facebook has issued a statement regarding their policy on human trafficking. While Facebook did not comment on the lawsuit itself, they did say that they work closely with several anti-trafficking agencies and report any apparent instances of child sexual exploitation the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). While I’m not saying that Facebook was complicit in human trafficking, both craigslist and Backpage used to claim that they reported child trafficking to NCMEC as well, however, the NCMEC said that two marketplace sites were never really helpful in fighting trafficking.

    Facebook is also facing internal strife as many employees are upset that Facebook’s Vice President for Global Public Policy, Joel Kaplan, was seen publicly supporting Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the Congressional hearings on Kavanaugh. As I’m sure you’re aware of, Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault. This has led many Facebook employees to claim that it makes look Facebook look bad in light of the accusations against Kavanaugh. Much like when Facebook board member Peter Thiel publicly supported Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate, Facebook is not admonishing Kaplan in any way except for CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying that it’s not something he would have done.

    So with all the controversy surrounding Facebook since the 2016 election, you think to yourself that you may want to finally delete your Facebook account. Good luck with that, as Facebook is trying to make it more difficult to delete your account. It used to be if you wanted to delete your account you had a 14-day grace period to recover your account in case you changed your mind. Facebook has now increased that waiting period to 30-days. Almost like a drug dealer, Facebook will do almost anything to keep its users coming back. A desperate tactic in a desperate attempt to keep users engaged at any cost.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on October 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Human trafficking, ,   

    Texas woman sues Backpage and Facebook over human trafficking 

    Texas woman sues Backpage and Facebook over human trafficking

    A woman from the Houston, Texas, area, only identified as Jane Doe, has filed a lawsuit against Backpage where she was allegedly trafficked while she was underage. This should come as no surprise as former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer had admitted to the fact that Backpage knowingly made money off of the sex trafficking of girls and women. Jane Doe is also suing two area Houston hotels which is also not unheard of as many trafficking victims believe that the hotels should do more to be aware of trafficking victims. What is really making headlines about this suit is that the victim has also filed a suit against Facebook for allegedly failing to prevent her from being approached by a pimp.

    The victim claims that she was 15 in 2012 when a pimp first approached her through Facebook. As online traffickers tend to do, the pimp consoled her after a fight with her parents. The pimp was said to be Facebook friends with a number of her real friends and promised the victim a job as a model. When the victim met the pimp she was beaten and sexually assaulted before being advertised on Backpage. The suit claims Facebook allows traffickers to “stalk, exploit, recruit, groom … and extort children into the sex trade.” Even though I’ve been a very vocal critic of Facebook, at first glance I thought the suit against Facebook may have no merit, however, the victim makes a very valid point when it comes to the social media kingpin.

    The victim claims that Facebook allowed her abuser to use a false identity that allowed him to approach the girl. For some time, Facebook has prided itself on having its users use their real names, even going as far as to ban accounts that use pseudonyms. As has been demonstrated in the past, Facebook seems to enforce their own policies rather arbitrarily and haphazardly. While I’m far from being a legal expert it seems that since banning false accounts is a well established and practiced Facebook policy, this policy may allow the suit against Facebook to proceed.

    What’s your opinion? Do you feel that Facebook should be doing more to prevent human trafficking on its platform or is this lawsuit without merit? Please leave your comment and let us know.

     
  • Geebo 10:22 am on August 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking,   

    Police doing fine without Backpage 

    Police doing fine without Backpage

    Ever since the seizure of Backpage by the Federal Government, a number of Backpage’s defenders have said that without Backpage, police are hamstrung in their efforts to curb human trafficking and that instances of human trafficking have not decreased since Backpage’s closure. However, you couldn’t tell that by looking at Cook County, Illinois. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has a long history of innovating in the fight against online human trafficking and have not rested on their laurels just because Backpage is gone.

    Recently, Cook County and neighboring jurisdictions in Illinois conducted operations that resulted in the arrest of close to 80 alleged johns who were looking for sex online. Authorities placed several ads on various escort websites in order to try to track those interested in buying victims for sexual purposes. Police involved in the operation say that the ads would receive three inquiries per ad while ads on Backpage used to average 17 inquiries per ad. In a region that includes the country’s third largest city, Chicago, this goes to show that Backpage’s closure is having a positive effect in helping to curb human trafficking.

    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) once said that Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking in the US and that Backpage wasn’t the most helpful when it came to NCMEC’s requests for assistance in helping to find missing children being peddled on Backpage. Backpage could not be both the source of and solution to human trafficking as some would have you believe. Anybody who says that Backpage’s closure hasn’t been a help to the victims of human trafficking is not only selling our police short but is using these excuses to try to justify their own behavior.

     
  • Geebo 11:10 am on August 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking, , ,   

    Indicted Backpage heads start suing each other 

    Indicted Backpage heads start suing each other

    Speaking of Backpage and Delaware, the top brass at the former Backpage are now suing each other in Delaware’s Chancery Court over access to funds allocated for their criminal defense. Through their respective holdings companies, Backapge founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey are suing former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and 19 others for alleged actions that prevented Lacey and Larkin from accessing legal funds they believe belong to them. For a heavy legalese take on the suit, you can check this article from Law 360.

    If you’ll recall, when Backpage was seized by the Federal Government back in April, Ferrer almost immediately pleaded guilty to various charges of facilitating prostitution through Backpage. Shortly after that, the government froze most if not all of Backpage’s assets. Now, Lacey and Larkin seem to be accusing Ferrer of sitting on retainers to various law firms that could possibly aid Larkin and Lacey in their various legal defenses.

    I’ll be honest, corporate and financial law has never been my strong suit so I can’t give an opinion on if any of these suits have merit. However, in my opinion, it feels like Larkin and Lacey are starting to experience a slight degree of Karma. Many of Backpage’s victims could not take legal action against Backpage for facilitation human trafficking because of either cost or the pre-FOSTA protections that Backpage was undeserving of. Although, I’m pretty sure Lacey and Larkin are far from destitute. Since they have been charged with allegedly laundering money, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had an emergency legal defense fund squirreled away in some offshore holding the government hasn’t found yet.

     
  • Geebo 9:22 am on August 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking, , , Reason   

    Backpage founders still trying to defend their actions as free speech 

    Backpage founders still trying to defend their actions as free speech

    Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey

    Indicted co-founders of Backpage, Jim Larkin, and Michael Lacey, recently broke their media silence since having Backpage seized by the Federal Government earlier this year. Being the media manipulators that they’ve been since the beginning, they didn’t pick just any media outlet to talk to. Instead, they picked one that would not only give them a soapbox but would also write about them in an almost heroic tone. Lacey and Larkin both spoke to Libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine about the charges against them.

    Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the Libertarian philosophy, Libertarians prescribe to ideas of personal freedom and minimal government involvement. They tend to prefer that the ‘free market’ determine most social policies. That is the bent Reason takes when discussing Lacey and Larkin actually hailing them as freedom fighters. However, what Reason seems to immediately gloss over is what happens when the free market ends up violating the freedoms of other people? While writing about Lacey and Larkin as if they’re political prisoners of overreaching tyranny, Reason seems to hand-wave away the fact that scores of women and children were sold against their will into sexual slavery through Backpage.

    As far as Lacey and Larkin go, in their interview, they keep beating the same dead horse they’ve been beating for years. As is can be expected from them, they continue to maintain that they’re right to free speech has been violated as if the Frist Amendment gives them some God-given right to peddle women and children as if they were so much chattel, completely oblivious to the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery in this country. They even have the temerity to claim they feel violated by the Federal Government when their homes were raided during the seizure of Backpage. That statement alone is probably one of the greatest insults to the multitude of victims of Backpage trafficking.

    Let’s be absolutely clear here, Jim Larkin, and Michael Lacey are not victims nor are they defenders of free speech. The only thing that they’re truly concerned about is their wallets and it seems like they’ll go to any length of lies and propagandizing to protect their own interests while the lives of Backpage’s victims be damned.

     
  • Geebo 9:17 am on August 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking   

    Delaware to act on Backpage’s ‘good standing’ 

    Delaware to act on Backpage's 'good standing'

    Last week, it was reported that Backpage had re-registered as a company in good standing in Delaware even though the company has been seized by the Federal Government. Delaware is known for encouraging corporations to register in their state by offering tax incentives that are both beneficial to the state and the businesses. However, it’s not unheard of for criminal enterprises to register as a Delaware corporation in order to try to hide their illegal activities.

    Since the last report came out, the Delaware Attorney General, Matt Denn, has said that his office will seek to have Backpage dissolved as a corporation in Delaware. According to news station WHYY in Wilmington, Denn can do this under a new state law that gives his office the authority to dissolve LLCs that are petitioned to be dissolved. The new law, while promising, reflects that the state isn’t really actively searching for companies abusing the state’s generous corporate tax status. If it wasn’t for WHYY’s reporting and the investigating by a human trafficking support group, the state may not have realized that Backpage was still registered in Delaware.

    WHYY also reports that the Attorney General’s office will not appoint an independent counsel to recommend corrections to Delaware law preventing criminal organizations from registering in the first place, or re-registering after they’ve broken the law. While Delaware’s corporate tax breaks may be lucrative for the small state, there definitely needs to be some kind of system in place for holding corporations accountable when they egregiously run afoul of the law like Backpage has.

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

    Top Backpage exec pleads guilty 

    Top Backpage exec pleads guilty

    Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey

    This past Friday, the sales and marketing director of Backpage, 49-year-old Dan Hyer, pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to facilitate prostitution. Hyer entered into a plea deal with prosecutors that could see him sentenced to five years in prison with a $250,000 fine. Hyer’s testimony included the admission that Backpage allegedly knew that many of the ads they were allowing were illegal.

    In exchange for his guilty plea, fifty charges of facilitating prostitution and 17 money laundering charged will be dropped. Reports say that it’s unclear if Hyer will testify against other Backpage executives, but to have that many charges against him dropped it would seem highly unlikely if he didn’t. The sentencing date for Hyer is set for November 19th while the remaining Backpage executives, including founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, are set to face trial in 2020.

    With Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer already pleading guilty and now Hyer, are we seeing the dominoes beginning to fall? Will more indicted Backpage executives enter into plea deals so the big fish can receive heavy sentences? I’m beginning to think that maybe Larkin and Lacey will not escape the prison time they rightfully deserve. It’s like watching the dissolution of a mob family while the underlings turn state’s evidence, which if you think about it Backpage was nothing more than an organized crime ring.

     
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