In a piece published by the Washington Post, Law Professor and former director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, Mary Leary, argues that Congress hasn’t done enough to stop the sexual trafficking of children by sites like Backpage. One of the main culprits she feels is preventing this is the Communications Decency Act of 1996, or CDA for short. Basically, the CDA grants websites like Backpage immunity from the things that its users post, like ads for children being prostituted. Backpage has been able to fend off several lawsuits claiming that the CDA protects them. For years I’ve been saying that the CDA is archaic since it’s been more than 20 years since the act was instituted. Considering those were the days of dial-up internet on AOL, it’s a joke that the act hasn’t been routinely updated to keep up with current internet trends. Ms. Leary seems to agree…
These companies have been sued by surviving victims throughout the country for facilitating their sex trafficking, and, with one exception, these companies have been able to hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and claim immunity for their actions by claiming that it grants them protection from prosecution for the transactions that they facilitate.
When Congress drafted Section 230 of the CDA in 1996, we lived in a different world: The Internet was still in its infancy, and online commerce had yet to become a major force in American life. Yet as the Internet has developed and the “dark web” has emerged, Congress has failed to amend this provision to respond to these new challenges. As a result, 47 state attorneys general have written Congress to demand the CDA be amended to prevent this. Law enforcement, child advocates, local politicians and victims themselves have begged Congress to make this important change and close down the largest marketplace for the sale of children in the world.
Ms. Leary continues that without amending the CDA, sites like Backpage will continue to pop up no matter how many are shut down. If the CDA is amended to reflect current times it could cut the head off of the proverbial beast, and sites like Backpage would no longer be able to rake in millions off the suffering of woman and children who are peddled on their pages by pimps and traffickers.
I originally posted about Brandi Beauchamp, Ashley Breedlove, and Ciera Beauchamp here. Ciera Beauchamp was the legal guardian of a 17-year-old girl who she allegedly prostituted on Backpage. Beuchamp’s sister, Brandi, and her girlfriend Breedlove, are said to have quit their jobs just so they could all collect money from this girl. The victim is said to even have contracted an STI thanks to her ‘guardian’ turning her out on Backpage.
You would think that child traffickers and child abusers like that would have the book thrown at them, but it’s not so. The prosecution has offered them a deal where they will see no jail time if they plead guilty to promoting prostitution. The most they’re looking at is two years of house arrest.
What kind of message does this send when three women were making money off of one 17-year-old girl who was forced to be violated by strangers for money? For that matter what message does that send to the victim where the suspects will only receive ankle bracelets for all the abuse she endured? This isn’t justice, it’s a mockery of what this girl had to withstand. The even sadder part is that this is what Backpage has wrought. There are multitudes of girls just like this still being turned out on Backpage and the legal system hardly seems to care.
55-year-old Michael Miller of Arizona was arrested in Miami for allegedly prostituting a woman on Backpage and violently assaulting her. Miller is said to have been romantically involved with the woman in Arizona when he reportedly talked her in to prostituting herself on Backpage. By the time she realized she was just another body to sell for Miller it was already too late.
Miller allegedly choked her and punched her in the face while trafficking her all over the country. He reportedly turned her out at high trafficked events like the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve. While in Miami, the woman said she was too tired to work, but Miller beat her and made her work anyway. Luckily, at one point, the victim was able to contact her family who contacted Miami police who arrested Miller.
Once again, this woman is another victim who supporters of Backpage will tell you doesn’t exist. They’ll try to tell you they don’t know anyone who’s trafficked, and that they don’t know any pimps. I guess this is a woman they didn’t know. More than likely they know a lot of victims like this woman but choose not to care. Women like this are being trafficked all over the country on Backpage. Don’t let anyone try to tell you differently.
As I’ve said in the past, too many people think that sex trafficking doesn’t happen where they live, and that it only happens in big cities. Have you ever heard of Auburn, Maine? I didn’t until I read this story. According to Wikipedia, the city has a population of roughly 23,000. That didn’t keep one man from violently forcing a woman to sell herself on Backpage.
A 57-year-old Auburn man was indicted this week, accused of raping a local woman, forcing her into prostitution and beating her with a gun, hammer and dinner plate in November.
And that is only the tip of the bloody iceberg.
Minor is also accused of allegedly beating the woman with a belt before tightening the belt around her throat. He is also said to have pistol whipped her in a fit of jealous rage. Kind of ironic that someone who forces a woman to have sex with other men would be jealous. He is also accused of striking the victim in the back of the head with a hammer after she woke up, and smashing a plate over her head after punching her. When the victim was finally able to make it to a hospital for her injuries Minor is said to have shown up at the hospital looking for her. Other women had ‘worked’ for Minor as well so God only knows what he did to those women too.
This story, which is sadly only one of many, should show you a number of things. The first is that human trafficking is happening everywhere, yes, your town too. The second is that this is obviously not a victimless crime, unless you consider violent assaults and rape victimless. Lastly, this is not an ‘industry’ of women who chose this way of life as many would have you try to believe. This woman, this victim, is more the rule than the exception no matter how many sex workers will tell you that they don’t know anyone who is being trafficked against their will. Those people are either turning a blind eye to the brutality before them to justify the way they make money, or are being trafficked themselves, and are just repeating a line that their pimps have told them to say.
Let’s also not forget that Backpage made their money off of this woman’s blood and pain in the name of ‘free speech’.
There’s a documentary that just came out that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately. It’s called “I am Jane Doe”, and it’s about several underage women who were trafficked on Backpage who are suing or have tried to sue the predatory and greedy website. The film’s creator, Mary Mazzio, recently spoke with KIRO Radio in Seattle, and recounted a tale about how she became aware of the problem…
“Sex trafficking of children actually happens in the United States? This was an epiphany for me,” she said. “I just assumed this was a crime that happened in developing countries. Certainly not 15 minutes from near where I lived. When I dove into it I was shocked by the breadth and the scope of this problem.”
Ms. Mazzio was reading about the Boston lawsuit where two underage girls sued Backpage for allowing them to be trafficked on the site. They were only identified in the suit as Jane Does. Unfortunately the lawsuit was dismissed and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.
Ms. Mazzio’s reaction is not a new one. It’s a reaction that a lot of people have when they first find out about what’s going on in their neighborhood or city, and it’s a symptom of why sex trafficking is not in the public eye more. Not only does nobody want to believe that it’s going on all around them but no one wants to hear about it. In the mind of many it’s too depressing of a subject to believe or even comprehend. We’d rather shut our minds off to it than deal with the problem head on.
I hope that I am Jane Doe is seen by more than people who are already advocates against Backpage. I really hope it finds an audience and enlightens them about the true nature of Backpage and that child sex trafficking is not just someone else’s problem.
A trailer for the movie can be viewed below. I fully intend on seeing the movie once it makes a wider release.
I recently read a press release where a new website is attempting to pick up the adult ad market where Backpage supposedly left off. Before we get into what’s wrong with that, let’s not forget that Backpage is still making money from sex ads, so reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated.
This new site, which I will not give free publicity to, is run by a husband and wife couple who use this as their justification to opening a Backpage clone…
“The people who were affected by the shutdown… we know some of these people. They are our friends. They’re not traffickers and they’re not being trafficked. It’s their choice and that was their livelihood. Now it’s just gone.”
First off, as I mentioned, Backpage is far from gone. While they may have shuttered the adult ads sections, the ads themselves have only migrated to the personals section, and as of this posting Backpage is still allowing that to happen. Secondly, a husband and wife team that are friends with ‘not traffickers’? That makes me wonder if they’re a husband and wife team already engaged in sex work. Lastly, I went to this website, and checked out their ‘ads of choice’, and the first ad I saw was advertising two women from overseas, who tend to be trafficked on sites like these.
So once again, it seems that the majority of people who have any kind of choice on these websites are the pimps and traffickers. That’s not even mentioning that I doubt this new site’s operators have the financial backing to weather the legal storms that have inundated Backpage.
In the past, lawsuits like these were dismissed due to the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA basically states that a website is not responsible for the content that its users post, however if Backpage did in fact edit ads submitted by users, it may make the CDA defense null and void. These lawsuits are in addition to the ones already filed in the states of California, Texas, Washington and Alabama.
Hopefully at least one of these lawsuits will have its intended consequence because let’s not fool ourselves, even amid its current legal woes Backpage is still making money off the victims of sex trafficking. The fight is far from over, but Backpage is showing a vulnerability in its legal armor.
The Herald talked to a woman who still uses Backpage to advertise her services for sex…
A scan of Miami’s Backpage.com site quickly uncovers dozens of women and men like Abigail, who have simply hung their sex business shingle in new places on the site. Now, with the “adult” category gone, she posts ads on the “women seeking men” dating section.
And she posts a lot.
And to anyone who points out to me that the woman in the article doesn’t have a pimp…
“I obviously love the money. It honestly has become an addiction.”
Greed is a pimp and it makes Backpage one, especially considering how much they profit off of sexual slavery.
First off, I’m usually not one to tell police how to do their job, but to the unidentified Tulsa Detective, less prostitution means fewer victims of trafficking. That’s a good thing. Just because 99% of your stings are done online doesn’t mean that your job is dependent on Backpage staying in business. You would think that someone whose job it is to protect the public would be happy that there would be less of a crime instead of maintaining the status quo.
The part of the video I really want to talk about comes at the 1:21 mark where a screenshot from child advocacy group Children of the Night is shown in support of Backpage. They claim that Backpage helps them find trafficking victims in order to rescue them. I would argue that without Backpage there wouldn’t be as near as many people that they would need to rescue but Children of the Night’s motives may be more financial than altruistic.
Even though Backpage’s sex ads still thrive on their website, only in a different section, if the ads were to disappear it would lead to a vast reduction in he number of women and girls being trafficked for sex, and isn’t that the true goal?
The only people who Backpage really listens to are dead Presidents, so hurting them financially really is the best way to put them out of the sex trade business, and yes, they are still making money from sex trafficking ads.