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  • 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.

     
  • 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.

     
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