Backpage gets restraining order against Cook County Sheriff

Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart

Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart

Earlier today Backpage was granted a temporary restraining order against Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Dart was the man behind the campaign to get the major credit card companies to stop processing payments to Backpage because of their ‘alleged’ involvement with human trafficking and child prostitution. The 10 day order basically bars Sheriff Dart or any other employee of the Sheriff’s office from petitioning any more credit card companies or any other financial institution to stop doing business with Backpage. This comes on the heels of the lawsuit Backpage recently filed against Dart, accusing him of violating Backpage’s first amendment rights.

I believe that Backpage is arguing that since Sheriff Dart used official county letterhead that this can be seen as censorship. Let’s see what other lovely things Backpage had to say

On Thursday, Backpage.com lawyer Robert Corn-Revere told Tharp, “Let’s not confuse escort ads with prostitution ads.”

That’s like saying let’s not confuse an assassin with a hitman. Escort ads are just barely veiled ads for prostitution.

Lawyers for Backpage.com are calling the judge’s order “an important reaffirmation of the critical role of the Internet in free speech and the continued evolution of e-commerce.”

I didn’t know that being ‘allegedly’ complicit in the sexual slavery of women and children was the ‘evolution of e-commerce’.

As far as I can tell what the restraining order doesn’t do is force the credit card companies to start accepting Backpage payments again. Isn’t it their constitutional right to choose whomever they see fit to do business with? Also, as I’ve asked before, why does Backpage’s first amendment rights trump the thirteenth amendment rights of the people being trafficked on their website?

I still think we’re seeing the death throes of Backpage however I wouldn’t be surprised if the company survived this like the cockroaches they are.

The restraining order is posted behind the cut.

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Backpage sues Cook County over credit card kerfuffle (From the mouth of Liz McDougall XI)

Liz McDougall

Liz McDougall

In response to the major credit card companies cutting all ties with Backpage, they have filed a lawsuit against Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart. The suit asks for damages for the revenue they’ve lost from their ‘adult service’ ads.

Let’s hear from Backpage’s legal team including head legal weasel Liz McDougall…

“Sheriff Dart’s actions to cripple Backpage.com and all speech through the site are an especially pernicious form of prior restraint,” the suit said. “He has achieved his purpose through false accusations, innuendo, and coercion.”

Liz McDougall, general council to Backpage.com LLC, said, “Our goal is to ensure that one elected official, particularly a county sheriff, cannot dictate what speech is or is not appropriate.”

I love how Backpage and McDougall act like they’re the only ones entitled to rights. Sheriff Dart has the right to ask the credit card companies to assist on ending online sex trafficking. The credit card companies have every right not to do business with whomever they want. None of which is a violation of Backpage’s right to free speech. I also find it ironic that Backpage is accusing anyone of coercion since so many of the girls and women that have been advertised on their site have been coerced, a lot off times violently, into sexual slavery.

This is an act of desperation from a company that’s sinking fast. Hopefully they won’t be able to stay afloat much longer.

Are prostitutes safer online or on the streets?

prostitute

Ever since Backpage was limited to only being able to accept Bitcoin as payment for its ads I’ve had people claiming to be sex workers telling me that without Back-page they wouldn’t be as safe being back out on the streets. One former sex worker disagrees

Back in the 1980s, when Audrey Morrissey was in the life, things were more clear-cut. Working the Combat Zone, she was, by design, highly visible. She could see and be seen, sizing up johns before she got in their cars or went with them into alleys. She could demand to see a license or have a friend take down a plate number. If she got into trouble, people would know and hear her screams. They might even help.

“I’m not saying horrific things didn’t happen,” said Morrissey, now 52 and assistant director of antitrafficking group My Life My Choice. She was robbed, raped, beaten, and had knives and guns held to her. “I know quite a few girls who were murdered. But it’s more dangerous today . . . because it’s invisible.”

Now let’s hear from someone who has worked during the Backpage era…

Pimps park women in these hotel rooms, sometimes in cities they don’t know, without friends or money or cars or cellphones. Every knock on the door brings somebody who might hurt them.

“You’re stuck in a hotel room for hours, days, weeks,” said Lala, who began working as a prostitute in 2005, when she was 16, and didn’t want her full name used. “You turn tricks, that’s all you do, and you’re lucky if you just run through them, and don’t get raped or robbed or beat up.”

In my opinion there are more women like Lala on Backpage than there are of these supposed independent sex workers. If you’re as independent as you say you can walk away but something is sill keeping you there. Is it money, drugs, something else? Then you have a pimp that you’re just not aware of. Women like Lala can’t walk away and Backpage helps keep her there whether you want to admit or not.

We get Tweets: You hate us and want to see us in poverty

Twitter-logo

If you follow me on Twitter you know I only post two things, what words aren’t recognized by spell check and links to my blog posts. Yesterday the tweet went out about the post on how Backpage is now allowing free sex ads and how I thought that this is signalling the beginning of the end for Backpage. In response to that tweet I received the following from a woman who appeared to be a professional escort…

@trenchreynolds You are so happy to see us struggle! Don’t you care if many girls have to walk the street now? This won’t stop pimps

I hate having extensive conversations on Twitter because I hate being hamstrung by the 140 character limit. I can be so verbose at times that it’s sometime hard to get my point across in a limited space but I decided to engage her in discussion. My reply was…

Backpage is responsible for 80% of all online prostitution. Shutting them down would stop a lot of pimps.

Also if you don’t have a pimp you have a choice to not walk the streets.

Those were two separate tweets by the way. She responded with…

@trenchreynolds Stop attacking us and then say that you care about us. You hate us. You will never stop prostitution

@trenchreynolds Hardly any girls have pimps. I’ve never met one. You just want to keep us in poverty

After the tweet me hating them I wanted to say there’s nothing further from the truth but in response to the tweet about how she never met a pimp I wanted to say which one is it? Are there pimps or are there no pimps as her positions seem to contradict themselves. Not to mention I’ve met and heard from plenty of women who did work under pimps and how dangerous and violent that was. It was at this point I realized I was dealing with someone who was arguing their beliefs and not facts, not unlike someone who belongs to a fundamentalist religion and refuses to believe anything that goes against the tenets of their faith. I decided to cut the conversation short at this point.

Youre obviously not interested is having a logical discussion since you insist on hurling untrue accusations at me. Be well

This is what I mean about being hamstrung by the character limit. I wanted her to know that I bear no ill will towards her and wanted to wish her well but ‘Be well’ was all I could fit in. She responded with two more tweets…

@trenchreynolds How can I have a logical discussion with someone who is happy to see me struggle and live in poverty?

@trenchreynolds #backpage is my best my only source and you are happy to see it attacked. It’s stupid to think you can stop prostitution

After I went back to whatever it was I was doing I had a feeling of deja-vu. I felt like I’ve had this conversation before or at least something similar. Then I remembered that I was previously accused of hating sex workers by someone on Tumblr. Here’s some excerpts of that…

You don’t even have the decency to *pretend* to be concerned about women’s safety here: you are a man who ardently supports a system that treats sex workers with incredible brutality compared to most of the rest of the planet. Men like you are absolutely complicit in the endemic violence against women that occurs as a result of that.

You live in a country with dystopic levels of violence against sex workers because men like you will always value your own ego, and the fantasy in which you get to tell yourself “I AM A BIG TOUGH MAN WHO FIGHTS TRAFFICKING” when really the things you’re doing are basically only succeeding in empowering predators against sex workers.

And you have privileges actual women with lived experience of the sex industry could only dream of, with your access to as you so proudly tote, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, CBS News, The Globe and Mail, the Boston Globe, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, among others. That men like you use your power to do the exact opposite of the things sex workers around the world are fucking screaming for makes you more complicit than most.

Too many people would rather live with a comfortable lie than an inconvenient truth I guess.

It feels like that they’re reading from the same figurative script. While they may not have had pimps it sure sounds like they’ve been indoctrinated by someone, my guess is whoever brought them into the business which is almost as bad in my opinion.

The bottom line is I do not hate sex workers, I do not wish to see them in poverty or have violence committed against them. Whether you like it or not I’m trying to fight for the freedom of those who have no choice in the matter who Backpage is willingly making money from. I’m not doing this because I’m a man who thinks he knows better than any woman. I’m doing it because it’s what decent human beings should do for each other.

Backpage allowing free sex ads but desperation is showing

credit-cards

With Visa and Mastercard recently cutting ties with Backpage the controversial website is now allowing sex ads to be posted for free with the insulting promo code of #FREESPEECH. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel after all. I guess #FREEDOMFORALL as a promo code was shot down, or in Backpage’s case chained to a radiator.

Some may think this is some kind of victory for Backpage but it isn’t. It’s a last grasp for hope because unlike craigslist, who used to allow prostitution ads for free, Backpage’s main income source is from the sex ads. Without them they’re dead in the water,

Another sign of obvious desperation is that they’re supposedly allowing ad posters to buy credits for posting ads by having the posters mail checks. money orders and even cash to a PO Box in Dallas. I don’t think many pimps carry around a checkbook, money orders are still traceable, and I don’t think traffickers are even dumb enough to mail cash. Don’t forget to include your return address.

Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart, who convinced the credit card companies to blackball Backpage, has urged the US Postal Service to ensure that they’re not being used as couriers for trafficking. You know, with that whole using the mail for criminal activity is a federal offense and everything.

I’m trying not to prematurely celebrate the death of Backpage but I would say that the end is nigh.

DARPA helps law enforcement fight human trafficking on the dark web

darpa

One of the most frequent arguments I hear against shutting down Backpage’s adult ads is that it will drive the traffickers and pimps further underground. It turns out that they’re already there and if DARPA has any say it they won’t be hiding there long.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is the agency under the direction of the Department of Defense that, according to wiki, is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. That can apply to law enforcement as well because DARPA has developed a type of search engine called Memex that allows them to identify patterns in human trafficking. It even searches the so-called dark web where sites like the infamous Silk Road have existed.

I urge you to either read the NPR article or listen to the audio clip below to see just how Memex can get the job done.

Visa and MasterCard can no longer be used on Backpage

credit-cards

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.

It pays to have a charity in Backpage’s pocket

An alleged accurate representation of what Backpage gives o charity.

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.

Use Bitcoin for all your Backpage sex trafficking and get a 10% discount

Bitcoin

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.

UPDATE: Bitcoin is now the only form of payment for Backpage as the major credit card companies have cut all ties with them.

We get Tumblrs: MyRedBook was not a “sex trafficking website”

myredbook

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.