Tag Archive: human trafficking

Backpage CEO no-shows Congressional Hearing

Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

In case you’re wonder why I defaced the picture of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer I used to do the same thing back in the day with Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster before they closed down their erotic services section. I thought it would be only fair to do the same thing to Ferrer.

Anyway we’re not here to talk about my childish attention seeking ways. We’re here to talk about Mr. Ferrer himself. It seems he was subpoenaed to appear before a Congressional committee that is investigating sex trafficking on the internet. He declined to appear. The committee is possibly seeking contempt charges against Ferrer.

So where is he you may ask? His lawyers state that he is on international travel. I wonder if that happens to be to a country that has no extradition treaty with the U.S. Backpage’s parent company, which may either be SPECTRE or HYDRA, are located in The Netherlands which does have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Backpage’s legal mouthpiece Liz, McDougall, who has also gotten the Jim Buckmaster treatment in the past, compares the committee’s investigation to that of McCarthyism. Except, you know, for the fact that the people accused by McCarthy weren’t making tons of money over children and women being sold for sex.

Lastly for those of you who say Backpage is actually helping to combat the trafficking of children, and there are people who say that, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children seems to disagree…

“It seemed they were more interested in trying to publicly claim a partnership with (the center) on the issue rather than reducing the sale of children on their website,” said Yiota Souras, the senior vice president and general counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who said the company refused to implement many of the center’s suggestions for stopping child sex trafficking.

She said in some cases, the company refused to take down ads even when family members pleaded for them to do so. She quoted an email to the company where a mother asked that her 16-year-old daughter’s ad be taken down. “For God’s sake, she’s only 16,” the mother pleaded.

Souras said there were more restrictions on ads to sell pets or motorcycles than there were to sell sexual acts.

Getting back to the matter at hand does anyone have any guesses where he went and will he come back to the US willingly or in hand cuffs? I hope it’s the hand cuffs so he can experience just a modicum of the humiliation that the girls and women trafficked on his website feel.

Backpage wins appeal silencing Cook County Sheriff

Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart

Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart

The last we heard in the saga between Backpage and Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart the injunction against him had been repealed. Backpage was trying to get a restraining order against Sheriff Dart since he allegedly convinced Visa and Mastercard to stop doing business with Backpage over child prostitution and human trafficking concerns. That meant that Backpage could no longer accept Visa or Mastercard payments for ads on their site. Currently Backpage is only able to accept pre-payment through cash, check or money order, or with bitcoin.

Earlier today the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Sheriff Dart can no longer “formally or informally” try to get credit card companies to stop doing business with Backpage. However this is nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory for Backpage. The damage has already been done. This ruling does not mean that Visa and Mastercard will go back to doing business with Backpage. Backpage has been dealt a financial blow that I doubt it can recover from. They have to be hemorrhaging capital with each passing day. How long will it be before their Dutch corporate overlords finally pull the plug? It can’t be much longer.

Backpage’s injunction request against Cook County Sheriff denied

Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart

Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart

Earlier today a federal judge denied an injunction request Backpage made against Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart. As you may recall Sheriff Dart previously had a temporary restraining order put against him by Backpage after he petitioned Visa and Mastercard to stop doing business with Backpage over sex trafficking concerns.

In his 29-page order, U.S. District Judge John Tharp wrote that the “cease and desist” letters Dart wrote to Visa and Mastercard warning them that Backpage was a haven for prostitution and human trafficking could have been construed as threats. But they did not amount to censorship, since the sheriff had no legal authority to force the credit card companies to act, he held.

Emphasis mine since Backpage loves to tout how their dealings in prostitution and human trafficking are ‘free speech’, but I digress.

According to the Chicago Tribune article there was even evidence that Mastercard was already looking into cutting off Backpage prior to Sheriff Dart’s request.

I would love to know how much cash Backpage is hemorrhaging daily since the majority of their income has been cut off. How long will their new Dutch corporate overlords allow them to lose money before cutting their losses? Backpage is suing Sheriff Dart over lost revenue, but that could be tied up in the courts for years while the credit card companies aren’t changing their stance on Backpage.

When the death knell for Backpage is sounded it will also be freedom ringing for many of its victims and Sheriff Dart will be holding the bell hammer.

UPDATE 9/19/2015: Backpage is appealing the judge’s decision although I still don’t see what that will accomplish since the credit card companies have already made their decisions.

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.


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?


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


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


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


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


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.