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.
Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey was allegedly caught in a Moore, Oklahoma, motel room with a 17-year-old male that he had met through craigslist. When asked why the Senator was in the room with a minor he was said to have replied “he was just there to hang out with his friend.” I’m pretty sure every time a child predator says that, a Chris Hansen gets his wings.
The teen’s family reportedly told police that the boy has a history of turning himself out on craigslist for money. Just because he was a willing participant, that doesn’t excuse Senator Shortey for his actions. While 16 may be the legal age of consent in Oklahoma, since the boy was under 18 that still makes it child prostitution.
It will be interesting to see if the Senator receives probation or if he will be running for President of the cell block.
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.
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.
Just because apps like Kik and Snapchat have become more popular with online predators, that doesn’t mean that you can let your guard down when it come to Facebook. When it comes to your kids’ mobile devices not only do you have to keep an eye on Facebook but Facebook Messenger as well. Facebook Messenger only appears as ‘Messenger’ on mobile devices but uses the icon seen at right. Even if your kids only use the desktop version of Facebook you should probably still know their login and password as the desktop version now has a messenger that is just as robust as the mobile one. This would probably be a good chance to also educate your kids that not everyone on the internet is who they say they are and if they’re offering them money they’re more than likely doing so for nefarious purposes.
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.
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.
If you’ve been reading this site for any substantial amount of time, you’ll recognize the name Tom Dart. He is the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, which is one of the largest jurisdictions in the country. Sheriff Dart is also one of the most dedicated opponents of Backpage. He is largely credited as being the man who got the credit card companies to stop doing business with Backpage, even though Backpage had an injunction placed on him from doing so in the future.
Sheriff Dart recently spoke with the press to say that he is skeptical of Backpage’s recent actions of shuttering the adult section of their site. That section of Backpage housed thinly veiled ads for prostitution and child prostitution. Sheriff Cook also stated that the prostitution ads have merely moved to the personals section of the site. As I previously posted, while it may be free to place a personal ad on Backpage, you still have to pay for upgrades to make the ad more visible.
A couple days after Backpage made the switch, Dart said his officers set up a “date” with one of the women advertising on the site and confirmed she was charging for sex.
“We went out and arrested a person off the site,” he said. “We answered one of their ads and it was no different.”
So the fight is still far from over. While Backpage may have made a grand gesture, along with complaining about how their supposed free speech rights have been trampled, women and girls are still being trafficked on Backpage. Backpage may claim that the ads being posted in the personals are out of their hands, but as we all know they have a staff of moderators that the Senate alleges edited the prostitution ads to make them appear more legitimate. If they can use their moderators for that then they can use them to keep sex trafficking ads out of the personals, but I highly doubt they will.
As you can see by the graphic I posted above, the Cleveland personals section is flooded with thinly veiled ads for prostitution. While it is free to post ads in the personals section, there are upgrades you can buy to keep your ads in better positioning and circulation. Also, as we know, Backpage does in fact have moderators that work for them, but obviously they’re turning a blind eye to the personals section now, or worse they’re still allegedly editing the ads and coaching the ad posters to make them look less illegal.
The bottom line is that as of right now women and children are still being trafficked on Backpage, absolutely nothing has changed and we should not let Backpage get away with this.