And we go back to Houston, Texas, where 30-year-old Clifton Campbell has been arrested for allegedly forcibly prostituting a woman on Backpage. Police say when the woman tried to leave Campbell, he punched her in the throat and in the eye. Please tell me about consenting adults again.
And Backpage still continues to collect that ad revenue from scum like this. More people should be outraged about this rather than whatever the reposted Facebook outrage story of the day is, you know, like football players kneeling, or how dogs would wear pants.
Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, is one of the few nationally known journalists who has continually reported on the transgressions of Backpage when it comes to Backpage’s part in the sex trade. In one of his recent columns, Kristoff goes after an even bigger fish in the polluted waters of internet sex trafficking, Google. Google opposes the proposed amendments to the Communications Decency Act that would remove the protections from prosecution that sites like Backpage have been hiding behind, otherwise known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
Kristoff claims that Google has an unfounded fear when it comes to their argument of a slippery slope with Google claiming the new amendment to the CDA could open them up to frivolous lawsuits. However, a spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited children points out the new legislation is crafted in such a way that it only applies to those sites which are directly receiving money from traffickers.
“This bill only impacts bad-actor websites,” notes Yiota Souras, general counsel at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “You don’t inadvertently traffic a child.”
Yet the majority of Silicon Valley is opposing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act mostly out of fear that it will somehow affect their right to free speech, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no slippery slope here. There is no downside. I think what the mostly insular tech community forgets is the victims being bought and sold into sexual slavery on sites like Backpage are real flesh and blood people and not just nameless pixels on a display screen.
Instead of worrying about Backpage’s ‘freedom of speech’ these tech companies should be more worried about the fact that many of the women and girls being trafficked on Backpage have no freedom at all in a country that prides itself on liberty.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer
Back in December, I was concerned that incoming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, wouldn’t pursue charges against Backpage like his predecessor Kamala Harris did. Those fears were allayed after the Sacramento County Superior Court overruled defense dismissal motions, meaning prosecution against Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and Backpage shareholders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. While the court dismissed pimping charges against them, again, the court did allow charges of money laundering to remain.
Prosecutors have said that Backpage’s operators illegally funneled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has promised to prosecute this case vigorously.
“Today’s victory doesn’t exact justice just yet against those who would prey on vulnerable young women and men. But it brings us a step closer.”
Backpage not only allegedly edited their ads to remove any references to underage girls while allowing the ads to remain, they’ve also been accused of copying ads from other websites and soliciting business from people who post sex ads to other sites. Evidence like that could not only prevent Backpage from hiding behind the Communications Decency Act, but could also finally lead to justice for the girls and women who were violently trafficked on Backpage and sold into sexual slavery against their will.
(Story broke 6/1/2017)
43-year-old Patrick Trottie was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, for allegedly forcing drug-addicted women into prostitution on Backpage. Trottie would reportedly look for women who were going through heroin withdrawal, give them heroin, then tell them they had to prostitute themselves in order to pay back their ‘debt’ to Trottie. The women were forced to give all their money to Trottie and if they tried to leave, he would beat them. One victim who escaped was found hiding behind a dumpster with a swollen face and split lip. Another victim claims Trottie threatened to shoot her if she tried to escape and would hold a gun to her head. So tell me again how this is a victimless crime.
Now, Backpage claims they have several safeguards in place to prevent underage girls from being peddled on their site. A claim which is dubious at best. However, my question is: What is Backpage supposedly doing to prevent women from being forcefully trafficked on their site? I’ll tell you. They’re cashing the checks from these violent pimps while laughing all the way to the bank.
Action News Jax
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.
Backpage’s legal weasel mouthpiece, Liz McDougall, has declined to comment on the bill. You know they’re scared when she’s got nothing to say.
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.
Turner and Harenza
(Story broke 5/18/2017)
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.
To make matters worse, not only was Turner allegedly still running his operation from jail, but he had some of the women under him out working in order to raise his bail money.
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.
After having the credit card companies tell them to take a hike and having to turn to Bitcoin, Backpage has now made it much easier and more anonymous to purchase sex ads.
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.
(Story broke 7/12/2017)
Here we have another story in which there are no good guys.
43-year-old Dunieski Castillo-Leyva and two of his friends were said to have responded to a sex ad on Backpage in Austin, Texas. The trio drove to an apartment where an argument reportedly ensued over money paid and ‘services’ not received. Of course, arguments like this tend to turn violent and this one was no different.
Levya and his friends tried leaving the area and got into his car. This is where 17-year-old Julian Juan Medrano allegedly fired a single shot into Levya’s vehicle instantly killing the man. Medrano is said to be related to the apartment where the three men drove to, but it hasn’t been made public as to what capacity he was serving.
The investigation is currently ongoing.
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.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer
The Washington Post recently received documents from a lawsuit unrelated to Backpage that allegedly shows Backpage was not only creating and editing the content of their adult ads, but they were copying ads from competing websites and actively soliciting people to post sex ads on Backpage for free.
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.