As you can see by the graphic I posted above, the Cleveland personals section is flooded with thinly veiled ads for prostitution. While it is free to post ads in the personals section, there are upgrades you can buy to keep your ads in better positioning and circulation. Also, as we know, Backpage does in fact have moderators that work for them, but obviously they’re turning a blind eye to the personals section now, or worse they’re still allegedly editing the ads and coaching the ad posters to make them look less illegal.
The bottom line is that as of right now women and children are still being trafficked on Backpage, absolutely nothing has changed and we should not let Backpage get away with this.
Hell has frozen over. The end is nigh. Backpage has voluntarily shut down the adult sections of its website after the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations announced its findings about the website. The subcommittee reported that they found Backpage was knowingly editing the ads that appeared to have someone underage in them, but still allowed the advertisements to be displayed. Backpage’s own moderators were also allegedly instructed to remove words from the ads that may have hinted at child prostitution.
Backpage executives began using a feature called “Strip Term From Ad Filter” to help screeners automatically delete hundreds words indicative of sex trafficking — such as “lolita, teenage, amber alert, teen and school girl, according to the Senate report.
“Backpage moderators told the Subcommittee that everyone at the company knew the adult-section ads were for prostitution and that their job was to ‘put…lipstick on a pig by sanitizing them,’” the subcommittee alleges in the report.
Backpage responded to the report not only by shutting down sections of their websites that promoted prostitution, but by also posting the above graphic in the adult sections. Please allow me to address the arguments Backpage put’s forth.
First off, the government has not unconstitutionally done anything to Backpage. They literally shut down those sections on their own. The Chairs of the Senate Subcommittee, Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, even say as much…
“Yesterday we reported the evidence that Backpage has been far more complicit in online sex trafficking than anyone previously knew. Backpage’s response wasn’t to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site. That’s not ‘censorship’—it’s validation of our findings.”
Potentially, Backpage could bring back those sections at any time, and I wouldn’t put it past them.
Also as I’ve said many times in the past, this was never an issue about free speech, it’s always been an issue about how much money Backpage could make off of the women and girls that sold into sexual slavery through their website. The only thing that has kept them legally protected was the archaic Communications Decency Act of 1996 whose crafters obviously didn’t imagine websites would be using their legislation to defend the ‘freedom’ of deriving profit from sex trafficking.
As far as donating to Children of The Night, I can’t stop you from doing that. They do work to get children out of prostitution, however they admittedly have taken money from Backpage which is said to make up 10% of their budget. I would personally recommend SelahFreedom as they have personally assured me they have taken no money from Backpage and never would.
As far as the people who will say that this will drive prostitution and trafficking further underground, I say that’s the whole point. Backpage’s adult sections made it easy for just about anyone to become a pimp or trafficker when all they had to do was pay a few bucks to turn anyone out. With the closing of the adult sections it will mean a significant drop in the number of potential pimps looking to traffic someone online.
For those of you who say Backpage made sex work safer, I’ve already said that concept is highly suspect as it has allowed killers and rapists to have their victims delivered directly to their homes.
Since Backpage reportedly receives 80% of their profits from their adult ads, and that their founders, including CEO Carl Ferrer, are still facing criminal charges, it remains to be seen if Backpage will try to survive as a ‘normal’ classifieds site. However, if I had to hazard a guess I would say probably not, but in the past Backpage has been a virtual Rasputin refusing to die.
Make no mistake that this isn’t a blow to free speech but a victory for all the women and girls that have been trafficked on Backpage for the past decade and more.
32-year-old Antonio Rosales of Chicago is accused in the murder of 16-year-old Desiree Robinson in Markham, Illinois, on Christmas Eve. Rosales was attending a party in Markham when he saw an ad for Robinson on Backpage. Rosales had sex with Robinson, but when he couldn’t pay her he allegedly punched her and slit her throat. Robinson’s friends went to the house where the party was where they found Robinson’s body and a knife. The autopsy said that Robinson had been beaten and choked before having her throat slit.
While I hope that prosecutors do everything within their power to put this scumbag behind bars for the rest of his unnatural life, I hope they’re also looking to prosecute the people who put Desiree Robinson on Backpage to begin with. While some may argue that Ms. Robinson was on Backpage by choice, I find that very hard to believe. The first thing that indicates to me that she was being trafficked is that she had been reported missing as a runaway since November 29th. Pimps and traffickers often convince their underage victims to run away with promises of a life of luxury. Ms. Robinson’s mother also said that Desiree had contacted her but couldn’t tell her mother where she was. Victims of sex trafficking often can’t reach out to their family due to threats of violence against them and their family. I also have to wonder if her ‘friends’ were her pimp and enforcers. A number of prostitutes often travel with a ‘security guard’. They’re supposed to make sure that not only does the prostitute collect the money for the pimps, but they’re also supposed to make sure that the prostitute doesn’t run off. Sounds a lot like slavery doesn’t it?
As far as I’m concerned, whoever turned her out on Backpage is as equally culpable in her death as Rosales allegedly is. This isn’t even taking into account that Backpage once again allowed a minor to be sold for sex on their website which led to her violent death. Just another drop of blood money in their already overflowing coffers.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, has filed new charges against the heads of Backpage. After having the pimping charges against Backpage dismissed, Harris is now pursuing charges of money laundering, 26 counts of it to be exact. While these new charges have been filed against Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and shareholders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, I have yet to see any information whether or not arrest warrants have been issued for them. However, they are scheduled to be arraigned on January 11th.
While I admire Ms. Harris’ dedication to the cause, she needs to tread carefully. If these charges are dismissed as well, any further legal action by the Golden State after that could be seen as persecution by the courts. It also bothers me that Ms. Harris is slated to take her new position as a US Senator shortly. Her successor is said to be the Jerry Brown nominated Congressman Xavier Becerra. Will Attorney General Becerra continue the fight against those who profit from sex trafficking with the same devotion that Ms. Harris has? Unfortunately, that remains to be seen. However, the state is looking for victims of Backpage…
The attorney general’s office encourages anyone who was a victim of trafficking via Backpage to file a report with the California Department of Justice by emailing [email protected]
I can’t say I’m feeling confident about these new charges. While the Communication Decency Act seems to be inapplicable to money laundering charges, I’d be more confident about these latest charges if they made more details public. So far Backpage has been a slippery eel when it has come to being pursued by the law. Hopefully these new charges will finally cut the heads off of this greedy and heartless monster.
As was also expected, the judge cited the Communications Decency Act of 1996. What else I can say that I haven’t said already? 20 years in internet years is more than a lifetime ago and was designed to protect web site owners from the possible illegal behavior of their users. When it was drafted I’m sure that no one had in mind that certain website owners would hide behind it while they collected money for the girls and women who were being prostituted on their website. The CDA is woefully outdated and is in desperate need of a revision so morally bankrupt miscreants like Ferrer and Co. don’t continue to profit by making millions of dollars off the victims of prostitution and human trafficking.
California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, plans to appeal, but until the CDA is updated I don’t see any further legal action ever succeeding. Maybe the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will have better luck against these scumbags, but I’m not holding my breath.
After an investigation by Virginia Beach police, the FBI and the NCMEC, Treat was arrested after investigators posed as someone who wanted to pay Treat and his girlfriend to have sex while they watched. After his arrest the victim claimed that she was uncomfortable having sex in front of strangers, to which Treat supposedly said they could rob the john instead. Treat was said to be in possession of a gun, a crack pipe, and a syringe at the time of his arrest. The victim claimed that Treat would inject her with heroin before she would have sex with johns.
Once again, here we not only have a case where Backpage is obviously not catching ads for child prostitution but they’re still making money from it. It also seems that Backpage has no problem taking money from a child predator who injects his ‘girlfriend’ with heroin. But it’s a free speech issue, right?
UPDATE 12/13/2016: Treat has been ordered held without bail. His own mother even refused to act as a custodian for him.
Sipps allegedly used the services of an underage prostitute being trafficked on Backpage. The girl was a 16-year-old runaway from Rhode Island who was allegedly being trafficked by a pimp. After Sipps found out the girl was 16 he reportedly got the idea to get her out of that life. Instead of contacting police or taking her home, he took her to his home where she lived for a month while they had sex.
Though she told Sipps she was 16 and a runaway from Rhode Island, “Sipps was unfazed … and drove (the victim) to his home in Aston,” the affidavit states. The teen stayed with Sipps for about a month. During that time, they had sex several times, according to the affidavit.
Even worse is that Sipps lived with his mom and his brothers. While not illegal it sure is creepy that he supposedly kept a 16-year-old girl there. The victim claims she felt coerced into staying there, and of course the Sipps’ family did not cooperate with the investigation, according to police.
While the age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16 there is still a corruption of minors statute which applies here since the victim is under 18. Sipps was arrested after the man who trafficked the girl, Raymond Justis, was arrested and pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor. Justis was sentenced to 14 years.
First off, good on Pennsylvania for not only having this law on the books, but for enforcing it. I’ve always said that there should be harsher penalties against johns, and according to what I’ve read this one will be pretty harsh. When you make the risk greater than the ‘reward’ it will put a rather large dent in the number of people being trafficked. No more tickets and citations, bring on the felonies with real jail time instead.
67-year-old Richard Knider Jackson of Detroit is accused of prostituting women and at least two underage girls on Backpage. Jackson would allegedly get his victims hooked on heroin then turned them out on both the streets and Backpage. Police say that Jackson kept a locked iron gate on the second floor to keep his victims from escaping and others were kept captive in the basement. He also allegedly beat his victims and kept all their money. His victims are said to have included a 31-year-old woman, two 21-year-old women, and two underage girls ages 15 and 16. One of the adult victims was able to allow the two underage victims to escape. The two girls were still missing at the time that this story broke.
The FBI is currently looking for the two juveniles who escaped from the house. Anyone with information about the two juveniles or about Jackson’s sex trafficking operation is asked to call the FBI at 313-965-2323.
With the eventual dismissal of pimping charges against the operators of backpage, this will not only create more monsters like Jackson but it will embolden them as well. Nothing about this story is ‘right’ on any level. Backpage is not making it safer for prostitutes, there is no consenting in this story and some of the victims are not adults. But please keep telling me how a man building a prison in his house for women and girls, beating them regularly and getting them hooked on drugs so they could be raped by strangers is considered free speech.
For those of you who may not know the CDA basically says that website owners are not responsible for the content posted by their users. For example, if someone left a comment on my site saying they were going to kill someone and then did it, I would not be held responsible. The problem here is two-fold however. The first is that I’m not making money from my commenters. Backpage makes millions of dollars off of ads that are obviously for prostitution, which brings child prostitution and human trafficking with it. The second issue is that the CDA is 20 years old. It was written before the advent of broadband internet, wi-fi and smartphones. I guess the CDA was formed out of all those inflammatory Geocities pages from back then.
As the internet evolves so should the CDA. To make rulings on such important matters using such an antiquated technological law is shameful. I guess we won’t see any real progress against these panderers until the CDA is modified to reflect current concerns.
24-year-old Ciera Beauchamp was the legal guardian of the 17-year-old girl she is accused of prostituting on Backpage. Beauchamp also lived with her sister, Brandi Beauchamp, and her girlfriend, Ashley Breedlove. All three women are accused of using the money the victim made to pay their own bills. Breedlove and Brandi Beauchamp even allegedly quit their jobs just so they could collect the money from the victim. The victim is also said to have contracted an STI from one of the johns.
I know I’m perpetually repeating myself, but I’ll keep banging this drum until there’s no longer a need to. This is what Backpage is defending as not only free speech but a solution to child prostitution and human trafficking. Prostituting a 17-year-old girl so leeches of society don’t have to work real jobs is neither a solution nor is it even remotely free speech.