Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is one of the few journalists who has taken a stance against Backpage. He has been penning columns about them for years. In his latest column about Backpage he talks about the lawsuit against Backpage filed by two Massachusetts women who were underage at the time they were trafficked for sex on Backpage. I can’t do his column justice so I’ll post some relevant selections.
About the so-called freedom of speech argument…
Some readers may scoff that this is about censorship of free speech. No, it’s about human rights — because one of the most searing rights abuses in America is the sexual exploitation of children.
On Backpage’s screening process…
Backpage also makes it hard to search for missing girls by allowing scrambled phone numbers in sex ads. If you sell a dog on Backpage in the pet section, you must post a numeric phone number; sell sex with a girl, and you can use a nonsearchable version — such as zero12-345-six78nine — that makes it more difficult for police or family members to locate a missing child with a simple Internet search.
Likewise, Backpage allows ads to be paid for with untraceable credit cards or even with Bitcoin. It doesn’t require any age verification or real names.
And Backpage’s obvious hypocrisy…
Liz McDougall, the lawyer for Backpage, declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuits, but she told me: “We remain committed to effective measures of prevention and successful prosecution of this heinous crime.”
That’s absurd. Backpage claims to report possible sex-trafficking cases, but Yiota Souras, the general counsel of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says that “Backpage’s reporting is not conducted in good faith.”
Yet even people who work to get trafficking victims off the street continue to believe that Backpage actually wants to solve a problem that they themselves are not only perpetuating but making millions of dollars from. Without the ads that traffic women in children in sexual slavery Backpage would wither and die, they know that and any thing they say or do is only done with the objective of continuing to make money at the cost of their victims.