A week ago today (because I’m current like that), the Senate submitted a bill that would add an amendment to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that would specifically remove the protection Backpage has hidden behind so they could continue to facilitate the trafficking of women and children in their ads. The bill, sponsored by Ohio Senator Rob Portman, is called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 and would essentially leave the CDA intact as it is except for websites who knowingly engage in sex trafficking. As a side note, I’m surprised the proposed act doesn’t have a clever acronym. Congress really loves their acronyms, but I digress. In the Senate’s own investigations, they believe Backpage knowingly edited ads sent to them in order to avoid further scrutiny by law enforcement and the government.
This couldn’t come soon enough as the victims of sex trafficking have been blocked multiple times from seeking justice against Backpage by the outdated CDA. The Communications Decency Act is 21 years old. If the CDA were a person, it would be old enough to drink. The CDA was passed during a time when most of us weren’t even on the internet and the only way you could access it was over a dial-up connection on an expensive PC. Since that time, the internet has grown exponentially and the technology used to access it has vastly exceeded any expectations we had of it in 1996. Yet the CDA has largely remained the same, failing to advance along with the times.
Those who think this new amendment may restrict free speech on the internet couldn’t be further from the truth. The new bill has language in it which specifically targets sex trafficking sites. According to the Washington Post…
The proposed law would clarify that Section 230 [of the CDA] does not preclude prosecution of state or federal criminal laws dealing with sex trafficking of children; does not prohibit civil suits related to sex trafficking; and ensures federal liability for publishing information designed to facilitate sex trafficking.
So yes, we can have a free and open internet where the rights of trafficking victims are recognized and their facilitators are punished.
A person by the name of George Torres is accused of allegedly prostituting an underage girl on Backpage in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area. During a hearing at the end of May, prosecutors testified Torres was allegedly contacting his victim in order to try to discourage her from testifying against him. Prosecutors said not only did Torres reportedly contact the victim himself, but he also had other inmates and his mother contact the victim. I would imagine the conversations were not of the ‘pretty please’ variety, but more of the ‘it would be a shame if something happened’ type. So not only was this girl said to be sold into sexual slavery, but she may also have had to endure continued abuse from her alleged pimp, his cohorts and his family. Yet sex trafficking and child prostitution is still considered too bleak and depressing for most people to pay real attention to as a problem that needs addressing.
I also bet Backpage thinks this guy was just exercising his freedom of speech.
So how could such a young man get into child prostitution? One reason could be that Backpage makes it so easy for anyone to get into the prostitution racket. All you need is a gift card, a willing or unwilling person to turn out, and an internet connection. The bar of entry into the world of human trafficking has been severely lowered, thanks to Backpage.
Back in February, a woman from Jacksonville, Florida, rode a bus to Macon, Georgia, for what she thought was an artist’s job. The man who is said to have promised her the job paid for her bus ticket. Instead of any art work, the woman was placed in a room and was told she was going to have sex with the men who knocked on the door. When the woman refused to answer the door she was reportedly gang-raped by a number of men. These men were said to be customers of Najiy Williams, the man accused of bringing her to Georgia and advertising her on Backpage.
Afterward, the men threw money on a table in the room. The woman later overheard Williams telling someone he’d made $900 off her that night.
So Backpage’s so-called claims of freedom of speech have resulted in the gang-rape of a too-trusting woman. And just where did the victim find this phony art job? Craigslist, so they’re partly responsible for this as well. So be careful when looking for work on craigslist. You never know when that job will turn out to be something from which you can’t escape without harm.
In Minnetonka, Minnesota, 28-year-old Ricky Turner Jr. and 25-year-old Brittany Harenza were arrested for allegedly running a multi-state prostitution ring on Backpage. The couple referred to themselves online as ‘King Finesse’ and ‘Finesse Bunnie’. Turner was said to have been the pimp while Harenza was his main recruiter. The pair are accused of placing thousands of ads on Backpage that allegedly included underage girls. The ring was said to have included 35 women and girls in 14 different states. Turner was also said to have recruited his victims on social media by promising them they would never have to worry about bills again and would tell them to ‘come home’. However, ‘home’ wasn’t as inviting as it may sound, as at least one of Turner’s victims claims she was forced to live in his home and would be beaten if she tried to leave.
Of course, all of the ads the pair are accused of placing on Backpage were in the dating section. So as usual, Backpage is doing nothing to stop these ads and they’re still making copious amounts of cash off of the victims of sexual slavery.
31-year-old Marco Vinicio Orrego of Boynton Beach, Florida, is facing federal charges of allegedly prostituting a 16-year-old girl on Backpage. Orrego is said to have met the underage runaway on Backpage before turning her out himself. He’s also accused of raping the girl, taking pictures of the rape, and sending the pictures to others. The alleged pimp also kept all the money he made off of the victim to himself. At last check, Orrego was being held on over $500,000 bond.
Again, Backpage is more concerned with protecting their free speech (read cash flow) than the safety of underage girls who are continually turned out on their site to be repeatedly raped by pimps and paying rapists.
According to an article by the Dallas Morning News, Backpage is now accepting gift cards as payment for their ads for prostitution. The same gift cards you can buy from just about any store in the world. You probably can’t swing a dead rat without hitting one of these stores.
How it works is you purchase any one of these gift cards, like iTunes or Starbucks or Target, and give the card number to Backpage. Backpage then allegedly turns around and sells the card number for cash. If this sounds familiar, this is the same way craigslist scammers try to get you to pay them. If they’re not asking you to wire them money, they’re asking you to pay them in gift cards. The obvious problem with this is it breaks a chain in the paper trail. If someone pays for a gift card with cash, that’s a virtually anonymous transaction.
For those of you who are saying Backpage doesn’t have sex ads anymore, don’t fool yourself. They’ve been moved to the personals section. While personal ads are free, you can pay to have them featured prominently and frequently. So now it’s even more business as usual at Backpage. Just think, some underage girl is probably going to be sold into sexual slavery by someone who bought an iTunes gift card at Dollar General.
The devaluation of human life continues at Backpage.
Anyone with information on the homicide is asked to call the Homicide Tip Line at 512-477-3588 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS.
I’m not saying this is what exactly happened, however, when you argue with a prostitute over money and try to get it back, that’s when pimps and their muscle try to get involved and they only solve problems one way, with violence. Much in the way that you wouldn’t ask a drug dealer for change, if you’re out money because of a Backpage sex ad, that’s on you. Just let it go man, because it’s gone. It’s not worth losing your life over. Even better, how about not using Backpage to solicit prostitutes? It only continues the cycle of violence and abuse many of these women have to endure from their pimps and traffickers.
The lawsuit was filed against a company in the Philippines named Avion. Avion was being sued by a real estate site for copying their ads. Documents that were seized by the courts in this lawsuit also showed Avion was allegedly copying sex ads from other sites and posting them to Backpage. Avion was also said to contact people who would post sex ads on other sites and promised they could post their ads for free on Backpage. Normally, it costs for anyone to post ads in Backpage’s dating section where the sex trafficking ads are now said to reside.
So what does this mean for Backpage? Well, for years, Backpage has been protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA protects websites from prosecution when its users post illegal content. However, if Backpage is actively creating, editing, copying and soliciting this content, that makes them de facto publishers which no longer affords them the protection of the CDA. This in turn could lead to any number of state Attorneys General to prosecute the Backpage cabal of CEO Carl Ferrer and co-founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. Most importantly, it could lead to an inordinate amount of women and children being freed from sexual slavery.
This also comes at a time when Backpage is suing the Attorney General of Missouri to halt any investigation into Backpage’s alleged illegal activity. Once again, Backpage hides behind the First Amendment and the antiquated CDA. However, with these newly released documents, Backpage may want to start focusing their legal efforts elsewhere, like keeping the blood money trio of Ferrer, Lacey and Larkin out of prison. I also find it kind of humorous that Backpage’s head legal weasel, Liz McDougall, has been silent on the matter when she usually has no problem spouting lies for her greedy benefactors.
Lastly, for those of you who still believe that Backpage is willingly helping law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, please watch this video with a representative of the NCMEC telling it how it really is.
The article I linked to from WSB in Atlanta didn’t mention the suspects’ names, but from the video it sounds like they are Amanda Beck, Joanne Grindel, and, I kid you not, Cross Beaver. I have no idea if any of their names have been spelled correctly.
Suspect names aside, this is just one more travesty to add to the unending list of travesties that have been perpetrated through the pages of Backpage. Sex trafficking is still taking place on their website no matter how many times they cry censorship, which means Backpage is still making money from the pimps and traffickers who use violence and force as their tools to sell women and children over and over again.
It is an embarrassment to our society that more people aren’t outraged about this.