The Senate last week passed a resolution exhorting Backpage.com to end publication of its adult entertainment section.
The measure was sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk and co-sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Kirk spouted the
hyped up bollox:
The numbers are rising, in part because it has become frighteningly simple to order a child prostitute on the Internet. One merely needs to look at the classified ads on Backpage.com, the leading Web
site for prostitution advertising in the United States according to the Advanced Interactive Media, AIM, Group. Just a few clicks on this site easily enables 'johns' to purchase children for sex. Law enforcement believes that the existence of Backpage
encourages the recruitment of victims for sexual exploitation because it allows traffickers to operate out of sight from police patrols.
Backpage.com argues that it works closely with law enforcement to identify, track down and arrest
anyone trafficking minors through the site. One such criminal was convicted in Florida a few weeks ago.
The 'Justice' for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) a piece of bipartisan anti-trafficking legislation that has been criticised for its prioritisation of law enforcement, passed the US House of Representatives by 420 votes to three on 19th of May. The
legislation will now head to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.
The problematic Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (SAVE) had been added on to the bill. This legislation would allow website owners to be charged as sex traffickers
if any trafficking victims are found to have been advertised on the site--whether or not the website owner had any knowledge of this happening. Sponsors of the bill have specifically stated that their intent is to shut down , or at least seriously
cripple, advertising spaces for sex workers, such as Backpage.com, which would take away from sex workers a safe space for screening clients.
The CEO of Craigslist-style classified ad website Backpage.com may be the first person in 20 years to be found in contempt of US Congress.
Carl Ferrer was subpoenaed by a Senate subcommittee back in October to answer questions over allegations that
his site was responsible for nearly three-quarters of all reported child sex trafficking ads. He refused to attend.
The subcommittee responded by formally approving a contempt motion that will be reviewed by the full Senate, likely this week. If
approved, it will be the first time since 1995 that such a motion has been passed.
Advertising website Backpage.com, which includes small ads for sex workers, won an appeal on the 14 th of March, 2016. The ruling states that Backpage is not responsible for any trafficking that may happen because of the advertisements on their website.
Backpage provides free or cheap advertisements and has been used a lot by sex workers since the removal of Craigslist in 2010. Ads are moved to the front using Bitcoin transactions after credit card companies were pressured to stop working for the
website. In recent years, the website has been subject to multiple lawsuits in different states. The website has also been subject to hearings in the United States Congress, as NSWP reported here .
Three young women who alleged they
had been trafficked through ads on Backpage brought the civil case forward. They were all minors at the time the events occurred. As Mike Masnick reports at Techdirt , the case alleged that Backpage was responsible for this activity under the Trafficking
Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act (TVPRA) of 2008. The TVPRA states that, anyone who "knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has
engaged" in an act of sex trafficking.
However, Backpage argued that they were not responsible because they are protected through section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 states that websites are not responsible
for the actions of their users.
The three women argued that Backpage was aware of and encouraged sex trafficking on their website. The court did not accept this assessment, upholding their protection under section 230.
Carl Ferrer, head of small ads website Backpage.com has been arrested on allegations of pimping, the California Attorney General has announced .
In a rather blatant conflating of trafficking with adult consensual sex work, the department said that a
three-year investigation concluded that many of its adult escort adverts involved prostitutes and victims of sex trafficking, including children. Warrants have also been issued for two controlling shareholders.
The site, which operates
around the world, is still online.
A California judge has tentatively rejected supposed pimping charges against the operators of Backpage.com, a major international website that advertises escort services. However the judge gave both sides more time to submit briefs before issuing a final
ruling next month.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman cited a federal law involving freedom of speech while ruling that the state attorney general's office cannot continue prosecuting Backpage.com's CEO Carl Ferrer and former owners
Michael Lacey and James Larkin.
The men were charged by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who ludicrously referred to Backpage.com as an online brothel.
The judge, however, said Harris lacked authority to bring the charges because
the federal Communications Decency Act, as a way of promoting free speech, grants immunity to website operators for content posted by users. Bowman wrote:
Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not
this court, to revisit.
Last month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. After an interim scare, the judge has now issued a final judgement
confirming the previous ruling and the charges have been dismissed.
The CEO, Carl Ferrer was charged with pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping in connection to online advertisements posted on the online ads portal.
California's attorney general Kamala Harris claimed that advertisements amounted to solicitation of prostitution.
However Judge Michael Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were
protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads posted by others. The ruling said:
By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free
speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider.
California attorney general Kamala Harris is pursuing new charges against Backpage.com website
The fresh charges, which attorney general Kamala Harris claims are based on new evidence, come after an earlier case against the website was thrown out
The website advertises escort services and seems t have wound up Harris who claimed that the site operated a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity .
Harris said she had charged Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael
Lacey and James Larkin with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. They also are charged with 26 counts of money laundering. In the latest case, filed in Sacramento County superior court, Harris claims Backpage illegally funnelled money
through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. (This does not seem a particularly surprising, or necessarily bad thing to do).
She also alleged that the company used photos of
women from Backpage on other sites without their permission in order to increase revenue and knowingly profited from the proceeds of prostitution. And from what Harris said in a statement it seems that hers is a morality campaign against sex work. Harris
By creating an online brothel -- a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity -- Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their
Backpage.com, a classified advertising website, has censored its adult advertising section after being threatened by the authorities.
But the action has had little effect on the posting of similar sex-related advertisements in other subsections of the
site, Jenks police say.
Jason Weis, a Jenks Police Department officer said many of the advertisements that transitioned to other sections of the website were duplicates of what one would have found in the adult advertising section. He said:
It took no longer than 30 minutes to an hour for it to go to the women-seeking-men (dating) page.
Sgt. Todd Evans said he noticed the same trend after the adult section shut down. He's heard the same
from police in Oklahoma City. He said:
What we anticipate right now is with Backpage shutting down its adult services, that doesn't mean all these people are just going to give up and go away. They're just going to
find a different place to go.
Evans said he still sees prostitution ads on the website, albeit fewer -- though he said there are still plenty.