This week both Visa and MasterCard said that their cards will no longer be able to be used to place ads on Backpage. Both credit card companies had been asked by Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart to discontinue doing business with Backpage over the obvious human trafficking that takes place on the site. Sheriff Dart has been one of the leading critics of Backpage for some time.
“Backpage has significantly lowered the barrier to entry for would-be sex traffickers, giving them easy access to millions of johns while cloaking them in anonymity and putting all risk on the shoulders of their victims,” Dart said in a statement on Tuesday. “Raising that barrier will lead to less would-be sex traffickers entering the business and ultimately less victims.”
This has to be a huge blow to Backpage as a lot of the money used to pay for ads come from pre-paid Visas and MasterCards. American Express stopped letting Backpage be used by their cardholders earlier this year.
And the cherry on top of this sundae is when reached for comment Backpage’s head legal weasel Liz McDougall had nothing to say.
Liz McDougall, senior counsel for Backpage, declined to comment.
That’s a minor miracle in itself.
I guess we’ll see pimps and traffickers setting up their own bitcoin rigs now.
An alleged accurate representation of what Backpage gives to charity.
Normally I don’t post links from biased news sources. One News Now touts itself as an American Christian news outlet. However, this article is spot on when it comes to Backpage escaping justice because of the outdated Federal Communications Decency Act.
Specifically the article about the lawsuit in Massachusetts filed by three women who were trafficked on Backpage while underage and why the suit was dismissed.
“It allows for service providers who make good-faith efforts to protect children from pornography, from sexual exploitation, and even prostitution,” explains Donna Rice Hughes, who heads Enough is Enough. “If they make a good-faith attempt to protect children, then they will have civil immunity from any type of prosecution.”
What good faith efforts are Backpage realty making? By good faith efforts do they mean getting a discount for using anonymous payment methods or having the head of a supposed human trafficking charity in your back pocket, or the part where they might try to move overseas to avoid US prosecution?
That doesn’t sound like good faith to me. Instead it sounds a lot like Backpage trying to cover their own ass while raking in a cubic assload of dough on the exploitation of women and children.
Backpage is always touting about how they have all these safeguards in place to stop human traffickers and pimps from posting obviously criminal ads for prostitution and child prostitution on their site. Yet they accept payment for ads from such untraceable sources like pre-paid credit cards and Bitcoin.
For those of you who may not know Bitcoin is what’s known as a cryptocurrency, a decentralized form of digital payment. Bitcoin’s main attraction is that it;’s supposed to be untraceable which makes it a favorite form of payment for various online criminal activities, most infamously the former online black market known as Silk Road.
Now I knew that Backpage accepted Bitcoin but I didn’t know it was their preferred form of payment for its ‘adult’ ads. While reading this article from the Rutland Herald about how sex trafficking of women and children happens even in rural Vermont I came across this quote about Backpage…
Also, backpage accepts prepaid credit cards and bitcoin payments because they are untraceable. Backpage offers a 10 percent discount for bitcoin payments.
If Backpage is so concerned about the problem of sex trafficking why are they encouraging the use of a supposedly untraceable form of payment? Simple, all they really care about is making as much money as they can from the prostitution ads where too many women and girls are forced into sexual slavery by their traffickers and pimps. If Backpage really cared about their victims they would shut down their adult ad section. They just can’t walk away from the millions of dollars they make off of the modern-day slave trade.
I previously posted about Eric Omuro and his former website MyRedbook. The TL;DR version is that MyRedbook was a San Francisco Bay area prostitution website in the vein of Backpage that was shut down by the feds and Mr. Omuro was charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering and pleaded guilty to those charges. In those posts I referred to MyRedbook, and in my opinion rightfully so, as a sex trafficking website.
More recently I posted an update to the story where Mr. Omuro was forced to forfeit a rather large sum of money as part of his plea deal. When I post a minor update like that, rather than making a an entire new post out of it I just add a snippet of text and a link to the previous post. Then what I do is send out the update on my social networking accounts. One of those accounts happens to be Tumblr. That update was reblogged on Tumblr by someone with the following…
MyRedBook was not a “sex trafficking website”, and its closure has made life significantly more dangerous for workers in the states in which it operated. Don’t spout ignorant shit.
First off one of the charges that Eric Omuro pleaded guilty to was facilitating prostitution. Where there is prostitution there is inevitably going to be women and girls who are being trafficked against their will, even in self-contained bubbles of counter-culture like San Francisco. Secondly that argument that websites like MyRedbook or Backpage make sex workers safer is specious at best. If anything it’s as dangerous or even more dangerous as the number of murders, rapes, and assaults that happen to sex workers who advertise on Backpage and Craigslist can attest to. Since sites like MyRedbook and Backpage make prostitution as easy and ubiquitous as ordering a pizza that increases not only the number of girls and women being trafficked but also the number of those that become victims to violent crimes committed by johns.
If you are in the sex industry I always recommend getting out before you get hurt. While I realize it’s not always easy there are resources for you, some of which can be found down the right hand column of this website under the heading of Sex Trafficking Resources.
It’s no secret that there is always an extreme uptick of sex trafficking at the time and location of major sporting events. Today’s Kentucky Derby is no different as Backpage traffic has increased in the days running up to the Derby.
I tend to not post those stories because it should be common sense. However I posted a link to this one because I wanted to share the story of a victim of sex trafficking that was quoted in the article…
Margeaux Gray knows the system all too well. She lived it for more than a decade.
“I was first exposed to trafficking, or sold into slavery, when I was 5-years-old,” she told WKYT’s Miranda Combs.
By the time Gray escaped, the trauma had left visible scars. She’s now legally blind, the effects of bulimia. She said she was sold for sex by someone she trusted, over and over again.
“By nine years old, I knew how to do things that no child should ever know how to do. No one. It’s unacceptable,” she said.
Gray doesn’t share details. She said the person who sold her for sex was never charged because prosecution was too painful for her.
“It’s all about control and controlling the victim so they can stay quiet. So I was brainwashed into believing a lot of things, and it worked.”
Yet people, and I use that term loosely, will use the myth of the ‘consenting adult’ to justify to themselves what they’re doing isn’t wrong when they order someone off of Backpage.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888: Call Specialists are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. All reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous. Interpreters are available.
Human trafficking is nothing more than modern-day slavery and yet is probably one of the least known crimes among the American populace. Please help spread the word that it is an epidemic in our society.
Alvarez, Belizaire and Alexander
Back in January the Orlando, Florida, Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation arrested Rodney Alexander, Tiffany Belizaire and Jose Alvarez on human trafficking charges. The trio are accused of prostituting a woman on Backpage against her will.
Again for those of you who still believe the consenting adult myth…
“Immediately they took advantage of her addiction to cocaine and started posing her on Backpage and forcing her to prostitute,” MBI Lt. Mike Gibson said.
“It got so bad at one point, they actually tied her up with sheets and dog collars and dog chains and held her captive inside closets,” Gibson said.
According to investigators’ documents, the victim was forced to work as a prostitute every day, walking the streets and responding to online ads posted on Backpage. She said the alleged ringleader, Alexander, punched her, and threatened to torture her with power tools and a curling iron on days when she made only $50.
Yet Backpage insists they’re part of the solution. Much like I used to say about craigslist you can’t be both the problem and the solution. What was once the craigslist conundrum is now the Backpage Paradox.
Hodza and Sorensen
Aldair Hodza and Laura Evelene Sorensen, of Clive, Iowa, were arrested in New Kent County, Virginia early last week. They were arrested at a truck stop when a trucker notified police of suspicious activity in their RV. No, it wasn’t meth, instead police found a malnourished woman. When police separated her from Hodza and Sorenesen she told them that she was being held against her will and was being physically and sexually abused. They were allegedly at the truck stop because Hodza was turning out his victim on craigslist and was there to meet someone who was willing to pay. Hozda even allegedly branded his victim on her back probably marking her as his property. Not surprisingly Hodza is said to have swastika tattoos on his arms. That would probably explain why he thinks so little of other people. This story reminds me a lot of Edward Bagley who kept a woman hostage for years as his personal sex slave, even lending his victim out to friends. He got 20 years.
Special thanks need to go out to truckers who really can be and often are the eyes and ears needed to stop human trafficking.
Also it appears that sex trafficking is returning to craigslist with a vengeance, or maybe it never left. Heaven forfend if craigslist would actually keep their own yard clean by moderating.
Justin Robert Muoio
There’s been a story making the rounds in the ‘strange news’ websites. It’s been on FARK and I’ve heard it on several morning radio shows. It’s the story about how 32-year-old Justin Robert Muoio of the Miami area prostituted a pregnant woman on craigslist to ‘fetishists’.
Muoio is accused of turning out the woman since 2009 and once she became pregnant he didn’t allow that to interfere with his money-making. Police say that he also kept all of her money and would frequently keep her imprisoned and even had his mother keep watch on her.
Unfortunately stories like this are not as unusual or strange as you might expect. Women like this are frequently forced into prostitution every day on craigslist and Backpage and never make the news and yes sometimes they are pregnant.
At least hopefully this story can help shed light on the plight of all victims of sex trafficking and that it still exists on craigslist.
Lately the state of North Dakota has seen an increase in prostitution and human trafficking due to their recent oil boon. It’s gotten so bad that former victims of sex trafficking are speaking to middle school students to warn them of the dangers of predatory pimps.
In an article by the Forum News Service they reached out to Backpage attorney and spokesperson Liz McDougall about Backpage’s role in all of this and she had her usual response…
“Unless the Internet is wholly shut down, the end result of this strategy will be that our children are advertised through offshore websites who do not endeavor to prevent such activity, who do not report potential cases of exploitation to law enforcement, who do not expeditiously cooperate with law enforcement to rescue victims and arrest pimps — and who are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement so they can thumb their noses at U.S. law enforcement requests, even pleas, for evidence to find a child or stop a perpetrator.”
First off from most reports I’ve seen from law enforcement Backpage isn’t as cooperative with law enforcement as they claim to be. Secondly, it seems like Backpage is making their own move overseas for the very reasons she claims other sites will do.
Like I said this is nothing new out of Backpage but what really surprised me was how deep in Backpage’s pocket is one Dr. Lois Lee, founder of Children of the Night, an organization that’s supposed to be getting children off the street and out of the hands of pimps and traffickers.
Talking by phone one November night from Lyon, France, where she and McDougall had just attended an INTERPOL conference on trafficking, Children of the Night’s Lee lauded Backpage’s cooperation with law enforcement, saying it’s better than any other social network.
Dr. Lee has even admitted on this very website that Backpage is responsible for 10% of Children of the Night’s budget. I’m not sure if that includes flights to France or not but I can’t understand how a foundation that’s supposed to help child victims of sex trafficking can take money from a website that is responsible for 82% of all online prostitution.
I used to have a link to Children of the Night on this website for people looking for trafficking resources. I didn’t even remove the link after Dr. Lee commented on this site about her dedication to Backpage. However I can no longer in good conscience link to them now knowing that they’ve been paid off by Backpage. One might even call it collusion.
May or may not be Backpage’s new logo
So far I’ve only seen this reported in the Dallas Business Journal but for now I’m going to assume that the sale of Backpage to an unnamed Dutch company for an undisclosed amount is true.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer sounds like a Bond villain making the announcement at the expansion of his ‘legitimate business’…
“We launched in some markets internationally some years ago and we’re starting to get traction,” he added. “In fact, some of those markets are growing double and triple digits. Having a Dutch company own us gives us access to vendors, companies and experts, especially in Europe, where we’re having the most success.”
Since it’s going to be the same guy as CEO going forward I doubt very much that they’ll be dropping the ads for prostitution anytime soon. As a matter of fact I believe this move guarantees their increase. It’s not surprising that they sold to a Dutch company as The Netherlands are infamous for having legalized prostitution zones but they are also a top global destination for human trafficking. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that they want to be operating in a human trafficking friendly country.
Another reason I think they sold to an overseas company is to flummox US lawmakers. Backpage attorney Liz McDougall is always saying how prostitution websites would move offshore if Backpage closed down. Instead of waiting for the US Government to catch up with them, like they did to MyRedbook operator Eric Omuro, they’re going to shift operations overseas even though they’re claiming to keep operations in Dallas.
So id the U.S. Attorney’s office or any State Attorney General has an ace up their sleeve now may be the time to play it before Backpage leaves the table a winner.