#SESTA is a Bill in Washington called “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers”. And a very few “Sex Workers” and “Adult Pornography Stars” have taken violent opposition to this Bill.
Sex trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. … Sex trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement. And many of the children forced into this culture are vulnerable homeless children.
The Bill takes aim at a website called #Backpage. Which is a Sex Trafficking Crime Syndicate that was launched in the classified section of the Village Voice, using the failing paper as a front so they could claim the trafficking was “Freedom of Speech”. They were eventually making 135 million a year and much of it off the backs of children being sold for sex. In fact, the statistics for child sex trafficking rose 850% in just five years after it launched.
Watch the I Am Jane Doe Film for more information on that.
As the #SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers) Bill makes its way to the Senate Twitter is abuzz with a few prostitutes and sex traffickers protesting the Bill.
One day, I would like to understand why some working prostitutes that are thrilled with their life and are living their dream, feel sex traffickers must be allowed to run rampantly through a society as predators and domestic terrorists in unchecked abandon, for the “sex worker” to “feel safe” and promote their “craft”.
On the other hand, because some “sex workers” feel the demand to have sex traffickers and permit them as a plague, perhaps they might come to some kind of understanding that this is why prostitution is illegal. “Sex Workers” that come to demand and expect society to have a tolerance for slavery and terrorism, not to mention adultery and violence, are generally considered a liability to the rest. And to expect of a society to write off children as collateral damage as the cost of doing business is an unreasonable expectation.
The few “sex workers” protesting about legislation to curb sex trafficking, are not paying income taxes as “sex workers” and probably have some undeclared income to settle up with the I.R.S. before they start marching on Washington for “sex worker rights” which apparently, include protecting sex traffickers.
Meanwhile, every taxpayer in America is paying for the millions of dollars annually that our tax dollars spent on law enforcement, rehabilitation, and damage control brought on by sex traffickers. And some non-tax paying “sex workers” feel the rest of America should just eat the expense.
But honest people have rights too.
Children and women that have been victimized and terrorized by sex traffickers, who are trying to recover from the trauma and address their oppressors, are not doing anything illegal and they are not evading taxes.
Women and children being used by sex traffickers don’t get paid a dime for labor. And if they do try to pocket a dollar and they are caught by their trafficker life becomes a new kind of hell for them. And if they do not want to work or do not make quotas life becomes a new kind of hell for them. And if they want to quit they have to move to another state or across the country on their thumb, penniless.
Prostition and tax evasion are still illegal. So what exactly are “sex worker” rights? They have a right to an attorney.
Obstructing justice while they have their own unresolved legal issues with justice, is just an indicator of how blind a few have become to their own conditions.
The #STOPSESTA Rampage
I’ll spare you the rest. But I will suggest to the ladies pleading with their Johns to call their Senators on your behalf, that to ask that is to ask them to go buy a burner phone. This is exactly what kind of “customer support” you can expect from your “sex worker” franchise.
The next time you find yourself miseducated and misinformed, and herded into some nonsensical madness to obstruct justice, consider the ringleader is on Payola from #Backpage for the propaganda campaign.
Not to mention she is mentally ill with Sadistic Personality Disorder. And you, are being exploited for profit by a multi-million dollar Sex Trafficking Crime Syndicate. And of course, her, the one pimping you all over Twitter for #Backpage.
Response to the above Alana Massey: https://medium.com/world-without-exploitation/the-false-allure-of-sex-work-727428335949
P.S. A message from the reformCDA (Communications Decency Act) Which #SESTA #FOSTA is supposed to fix.
Tfw you realize the "survivors" attacking CDA reform are all white sex workers while the actual survivors who fought for this bill for years are predominantly of color and have had their lives destroyed by online exploiters. #FOSTA#SESTApic.twitter.com/zAMuVrxtqy
Allure magazine is the poster child for all that went wrong in the magazine publishing world.
Allure by itself has been considered the Walmart of glossy advertising, mainly with products available at Walmart or discount and modestly priced outlets.
Which is not a bad thing at all. And many savvy shoppers that shop at these outlets find great merchandise for their wants and needs. But behind the advertising one must offer something more than a glossy ad. Walmart does that. Allure Magazine does not.
Long gone are the days Tina Brown could rock an erection statistic on the circulation of a periodical by leafing through a current issue.
There is rumor around town that magazines are dying because of the Internet. Don’t believe it. Every woman loves to kick back and browse through periodicals that inform, amuse, and bring on the wants and dreams. We even need it. Magazines are for the leisure class. And every American at some part of their day or week is part of the leisure class.
That said, we are already burdened daily with opinions, attitudes, misinformation, and miseducation. It is a constant task to sort these and keep them filed in places where they bring meaning and bright choices. Or dispose of them as unuseful tools that are no longer workable. The last thing we want or need is to open a magazine loaded with opinions, attitudes, miseducation, and misinformation. And the magazines are heavy with it. And we have a very small % of the population that volunteers to be misled and misinformed.
The dynamic that causes any industry to flourish is imbued with professionalism and ethical social intercourse. And if you take a look at the Code of Ethics for journalists, it becomes clear why journalism and media are not only in a rut but dragging down industry as media can no longer perform well enough to carry advertising.
The economy is not affecting media, the media is affecting the economy. if Retailers had not circumvented this by having own magazines, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we might have been sunk into a depression.
Most people have no idea there is a code of ethics for a journalist and if they saw it, they may be shocked.
Journalist Code Of Ethics
Seek Truth and
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. The ethics codes are explained here:
If you read through that you get some idea of just how unholy the sphere of “journalism” and “journalists” has become. The very underbelly of it all is when a journalist violates all of the above, and plows forward like a cult leading to dominate his or her readers, and even issue marching orders. The lowest underbelly of that is when they mislead and miseducate, then demand action from their readers based on that. Such as ordering their customers to call senators and demand action on legislative Bills the customers have never even read.
That brings us to the current underbelly of magazine publications, Allure Magazine.
Not only are they or some of their employees apparently on the payola of Backpage Sex Trafficking Syndicate for promoting propaganda. But they are also acting as hit men to target, harass and humiliate activists for child victims of Backpage. There is a Bill in Washington now called Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers. #SESTA Which targets Backpage.
The owners Mike Lacey and James Larkin, used politicians for years until Backpage was discovered to be promoting and enable selling children for sex. Since then politicians will not touch donations from Backpage.
Given that Backpage cannot even get politicians to take their money, they have been relying on journalists and bloggers for support in exchange for cash infusions. Somehow, someway, Allure magazine got on the gravy train. Not only they did give marching orders to their followers, they wallowed in sadism as they photoshopped activists to mock humiliate and target them for abuse.
I kid you not, this is from the “Health and Wellness” at Allure:
Anti Celebrity rants in Allure Magazine? This one is definitely not tracking with the rest of the team. Celebrities are what they put on their covers to sell their magazines. Not to mention the people pushing this Bill ARE the SURVIVORS. So they are miseducating and misinforming.
And this rampage alongside advertisers such as Kohls, Keils, and other reputable hard-won goodwill industries whose name should not be on the same Twitter feed with Backpage Child Sex Trafficking Crime Syndicate. Whos owners, founders, and staff are currently under the scope of the F.B.I. and Homeland Security.
This isn’t just bag industry, this is walled with treason to readers, customers, and sponsors.
This is why Allure Magazine is falling south. Because of unprofessional standards and unethical practices. Not to mention sadistic disregard for advertisers, sponsors and reader, and subjects.
I reached out to Allure Magazine, Haley MacMillan, and Alana Massey for comments. They have all gone invisible. I guess accepting cash infusions from children being for sex on the Internet is out of Vogue currently. (Excuse the pun)
If you want to subscribe to a good magazine, pick up Vanity Fair. Where Tina Brown’s high standards still reach out to curious and intelligent minds, who don’t care to be screamed at and dominated, ordered about, miseducated and misinformed.
For more information on Backpage see I Am Jane Doe Film or read the Senate Investigations Report.
The time has come for me and the A.C.L.U. to part ways. As they seem to have parted ways with common sense.
We have a major problem in this country with a “no rules wild west” Internet and criminal minds are using this climate to profit off the misery of homeless children by selling them for sex online.
This degrades our entire country not to mention it costs every taxpayer to deal with it. We spend millions upon millions of dollars every year in law enforcement and damage control. That is money that is not being used to help other people.
I have been a long time member and supporter of the A.C.L.U. mainly because I felt the A.C.L.U. was a frontline defense against bigots, who I consider a menace to society. By “bigot”, I mean one who condemns broad sections of a society only because of their race, sex, sexual preference, religious affiliation, political affiliation, or other identification through which they are trying to survive.
The A.C.L.U. motto (recently stolen by a new and upcoming activist) is “We don’t back down”.
This is the most common definition of the word as it is used today:
Bigot: A person who is intolerant of those holding different opinions.
Endorsing child abuse is not an opinion, it is a crime.
Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is a Form of Child Abuse in more than half of the states we live in. And in the other the half we have pending legislation to make it so.
It would not take your average human being even with a low I.Q. to realize selling children for sex is a form of abuse. That we have to write it into law clears the area from gray into a very black and white understanding.
Truthfully, I should have detached myself from the A.C.L.U. when they recently declared White Supremacists should be allowed “Hate Speech” as part of their “freedom of speech”. I must have been half asleep.
Now that the A.C.L.U. are in a fight to suppress legislation that would guarantee a child’s right to fight back against being sold for sex on the Internet, (The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act knows as #SESTA), it could not be more clear to me that the A.C.L.U. has drifted itself, into a menace to society.
They are currently railing against unfair treatment of immigrants with the left hand while pushing America’s children into the closet with their right. In letters opposing the legislation that would hold sex traffickers accountable for their actions, they actually describe child sex trafficking as a form of “artistic expression”, and “commercial and artistic free speech”.
Further, the A.C.L.U. complains that any efforts to curb selling children for sex on the Internet might “discourage entrepreneurs”. How is that for sadistic disregard for victims? The children should be collateral damage for entrepreneurs.
The Criminal Sex Trafficking Syndicate #Backpage, which is the reason the American taxpayers have been taxed millions upon millions of dollars to battle this plague, has been paying propaganda and lobby artists very generously to obstruct justice. When I contacted the A.C.L.U. and asked point blank if they were receiving cash infusions from the crime syndicate through the owners, attorneys or lobbyists, I could not get an answer.
See I Am Jane Doe for full Back Story:
Read Senate Investigations Report for further enlightenment:
Upon viewing the A.C.L.U. website they describe themselves as “bipartisan and nonprofit”. They are neither, and I have no idea why they have not been charged with mass marketing fraud. I have not been able to find anywhere a disclosure of the current paychecks their executives take home. And you know they profit from the misery as fast as they can publicize it.
Over the last few weeks, several women have courageously come forth to bear witness to the abuse suffered by women in the theater and arts, at the predatory methods of Hollywood power broker Harvey Weinstein.
The sadistic victim shaming I have noticed on the Internet is born of lack of awareness and understanding of the prey in the predator’s game.
What I have been seeing with the victim shaming, is the question of why the women waited to speak out. Why some of the women propitiated.
There is a spiritual trauma and shock when a woman is overwhelmed with force. Be it physical, mental or spiritual. This trauma hangs a person in a suspension with the confusion that accompanies having one’s reality violated. And there is the victim shaming I am witnessing right now and much of it coming from other women.
“Harvey Weinstein decided to force himself on her and she decided to let it go”. This also happens to children that are molested as they fear to disappoint the people they are dependent upon. What you depend upon you become the effect of.
Harvey Weinstein played the same card. Tapping into women’s fear of loss. Fear of shame. Shame and humiliation. It is really not that difficult to understand. And it is sadistic. He had the resources to pay someone for consensual sex if that was his aim. But he chose to overwhelm and dominate his victims. This is sadism.
There is a wide difference between sadism and “womanizing”.
How many children are molested that do not speak of it for years? These incidents are a threat and a punishment for being young, or without power. How many children are molested on Monday night that still shows up at the dinner table on the following Tuesday?
The lack of empathy and understanding in these victims, and the shaming comments I see now on the Internet, is exactly why Harvey Weinstein escaped responsibility for his crimes against women for so long.
Ask yourself how many times as young child without power, you became emotionally, spiritually, or physically violated or humiliated at home or at school. How many times you were humiliated and yet, you showed up for class again or arrived once more, for school the following day.
If you are a human being it is within you to understand emotional and spiritual overwhelm these women experienced. To understand these women and how fragile one can be when threatened with loss, overwhelmed with power or lured by hope.
This is exactly why we are working so diligently to affect legislation with regards to the statute of limitations for crimes against children.
Gawker was an American blog founded by Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers and based in New York City focusing on celebrities and the media industry. It was launched in January 2003.
Whereas the Village Voice was a paper for newly minted New Yorkers, meaning people that moved into New York with identity issues and bought the Paper to “be cool”, the Gawker was a blog for New Yorkers.
The Gawker closed down in 2016 after thirteen years. The blog never catered to advertisers or “sold out” for greed. I was a regular reader and found it to be a straightforward New York smart blog.
I have had some difficulty lately finding certain issues they published. As if the archives are being scrubbed. If you follow any sequence at the Web Site you will notice some pages “Can’t be found”.
This has been frustrating me since I considered the reporting from that blog valuable information. So being, I am taking the liberty to share some of the articles here for the purpose of preservation.
‘Village Voice’ Getting Whiter, Maler By The Minute
Filed to: NEW TIMES
Village Voice Managing Editor Deborah Kolben has been let go; Ward Harkavy will be taking over the number two spot at the paper. With the recent resignation of Deputy Managing Editor Adamma Ince and the earlier dismissal of Executive Editor Laura Conaway, this means that the top of the Voice masthead now consists of four white guys and Film Editor Allison Benedikt. Attempts to reach Editor in Chief Tony Ortega were unsuccessful. Probably because it was some chickcalling.
Aussie journalist Steve Cannane, and reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. left, parties in the U.S. with Tony Ortega, right, of the Village Voice/ Backpage, in the U.S.
Tony Ortega, spokesperson for Backpage, upper far left, with Peter Griffiths of County Mayo, Ireland, party in London.
Backpage sex trafficking syndicate is laying roots in in Australia and Ireland. And, there are people in these countries endorsing the authors, creators, and launchers of the world’s largest online child sex trafficking syndicate.
Mike Lacey and James Larkin of Arizona, in the U.S., purchased a New York City newspaper called Village Voice.
According to media watchdog site Gawker, Village Voice depended on sex and drug ads for its very survival.
The paper had fallen on hard times and became a free give away paper by the time Larkin, Lacey and Tony Ortega took the helm.
Lacey and Larkin, the investors, and owners of Backpage trademark attached “Backpage” online sex trafficking site to the Village Voice. They then linked “Big City”, another sex trafficking site they owned, covertly, into the back door of Backpage.
Lacey and Larkin used the newspaper Village Voice, with the editor in chief Tony Ortega, to launch an International sex trafficking syndicate, under the cloak of “freedom of speech”. And “constitutional rights”.
This is also known as racketeering in the United States and there are RICO Laws ( Passed in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.) designed to address this type of organized crime, when not cloaked under “Freedom of Speech” (parked behind a newspaper).
Where there are young children to be exploited as coins, you will find Backpage pushing its way through the culture to profit off of the misery of desperate women and children. And Backpage and their sponsors go all out to reap the profit.
Backpage is now full onto scooping up the children of these countries that can be sold for sex on the Internet. And people in these countries are supporting these efforts and the sponsors and defenders of the Backpage sex trafficking syndicate.
Backpage is now costing the American tax payers more than 50 million dollars a year only in damages to assist the victims. Add the cost of law enforcement to that and the cost skyrockets.
Victims in Australia are easy marks for Backpage as more than half of sex slavery victims in Australia are left without government support due to legislation that gives the Australian Federal Police (AFP) the authority to exclude suspected victims from aid. This leaves them not only as targets for sex traffickers but deprived of help or aid as victims.
There is evidence that there are people in Australia and Ireland supporting sex traffickers and they do not take issue with children being sold for sex.
Destroying the lives of women and children is a covert form of ethnic cleansing. The peoples of these countries only need to look at the devastating effects Backpage has had on America and every taxpayer in it to understand how they will be taxed as a civilization by Backpage spreading through their civilization.
There is ample evidence now that Backpage Executives have knowingly facilitated child sex trafficking.
Ortega described his duties for Lacey and Larkin before that time as a “hatchet man” in asset transitions when Lacey and Larkin bought and took over other media investments.
“I’m a card holding member of the Evil Empire, a New Times hack who’s been at it for ten years, the boogeyman every Birkenstock-wearing hippie burnout still clinging to a paycheck at alt-weeklies sees in his sleep, coming to take his job and turn his paper into a soulless corporate moneymaker.” Tony Ortega
This in itself suggests the Village Voice takeover was a premeditated investment to use it as a front for the digital sex trafficking syndicate it became under Backpage. Lacey and Larkin already owned bigcity.com https://bigcity.com and Backpage. Big City site was plugged into Backpage, and Backpage was plugged into the Village Voice. The Village Voice had been losing so much money that in 1996 they started giving it away for free.
In case you wonder about the paper being free to folks in Manhattan? People from New York do not read the Village Voice. The Village Voice is not even located in the Village, it is in NO HO. North Houston Street area. The paper is for newbies arriving in Manhattan that think it is cool to have a Village Voice. As of 2011, The Gawker, a focus on media conditions, reported the Village Voice was solely supported by drug and prostitution ads, and could not survive otherwise.
a group called The Rebecca Project is running ads in Village Voice Media-owned papers calling on Village Voice Media to stop selling sex ads on Backpage.com, which is where all the hooker ads are now, FYI. Also, the sex-trafficked ads, unfortunately. I wouldn’t expect VVM to do that, though, because, money. Craigslist didn’t need it, but VVM really does.
I still ponder why RICO laws have not been applied to this true crime story. Imagine owning a pizza parlor and giving away the pizza for free, while you have a streaming revenue of millions every month coming in. That is exactly how the Village Voice was converted into a racketeering front for an international sex trafficking syndicate.
And the best part? They could do it in broad daylight cloaked under “Freedom of Speech”. Because Backpage was attached to a newspaper.
In any asset transition a frontman is sent in to do a shakedown, get rid of staff, and use the assets left for profit. The history of layoffs that took place as Ortega entered the Village Voice is legendary. And the women were the first to hit the sidewalk. And as Backpage grew in the back, the front, the Village Voice newspaper, was shaved away.
Layoffs included Michael Feingold who at age 65 was chief theater critic at the Voice for 25 years. Another casualty after 29 years was Michael Musto of the gossip column La Dolce Musto. Aged 59, he stated at the time to a reporter, “It was horrifying. That paper was my heart and soul…I looked upon it as my home.” In recent years, both men had become to many readers the only reason to read the paper and even then it was referred to as a lowbrow entertainment rag. These first-rate men, however, were the exception; they have always been regarded as top professionals each in their specific fields. Feingold was seen as a serious, scholarly theater critic on the scene and Musto as an outrageous, hilarious gossip maven. The forerunner to Musto in the world of gossip was Arthur Bell whose column Bell Tells was published at the Voice from 1976 to 1984 when he suddenly died at age 44.
Following Musto and Feingold’s firing, the newspaper has become redundant and a bore to read. Alexis Solomon, who it seems has replaced Feingold as theater critic, is a freelancer who was a second string critic. Despite this, there were buy-out settlements and the owners and editors would like to continue utilizing at least Feingold in his role of the annual Obie Award ceremonies host and has invited him to contribute articles but as a freelancer. Currently, he is writing for www.theatermania.com and is considering his options. Musto is still prominent in the gossip and club scene and is now juggling a variety of media job offers. We hope they will both flourish and fare well. Without them the paper might be called The Village Ghost or The Phantom Voice.
It reminds me of the Walmart layoffs wherein former staffers were sadly demoted to part-timers without benefits; many were then offered enrollment in the government food stamp program by the company to help them survive the wage cuts. Another Voice firing was longtime restaurant critic Robert Sietsema. The list of others let go by New Times Media include music critic Robert Christgau dismissed in 2006 and in January 2007 the newspaper gave the axe to art director Minh Oung, the long term creative director Ted Keller, the popular fashion columnist Lynn Yeager, sex columnist and author of erotic books Rachel Kramer Busse, and Deputy Advertising Director L. D. Beghtol. Nat Hentoff, the great political columnist who worked at the paper from l958 to 2008 was saddened to leave after such a long run.
It should be noted here that also in May of this year, Village Voice editor Will Bourne and Deputy Editor Jessica Lustig told The New York Times that they decided to quit the weekly paper in preference to the dismissal of their staff. Both had only recently been hired; since 2005, the Voice has gone through five editors. Today, the Voice Media Group, which acquired the paper in 2005, is being managed by two journalists from Phoenix who have set out to strip the paper of any last vestiges of the old Bohemian leftist-liberal spirit.
I could go on and on, but it is easier to bury into this piece of history by simply Googling “Village Voice layoffs” at About 63,500 results (0.41 seconds).
As Backpage blew up in value under Ortega, Lacey and Larkin, the front they were using for racketeering in broad daylight, became a shell as they forfeited mainstream advertisers in favor of the more profitable sex trafficking revenue.
Everything was running like clockwork until dead bodies began to service. From the child sex trafficking. People that engage in child sex trafficking bank of the fact that the child will be so traumatized by the experience and the stigmatism of “prostitution” aimed at them, that they will lay down and die silently. Quitely. Remain hidden and silent. But the Village Voice kids trafficked, well, some of them started to come forward with testimony. In the form of lawsuits. And the spotlight began to shine.
Ortega plugged into the stigmatism of prostitution in defense of Backpage and repeatedly accused the victims of being “underage prostitutes”to dehumanize them and their testimony of abuse. He also claimed it was invented bunk and gaslighted anyone who protested. And the Village Voice was used as an instrument to decimate any critics.
“Backpage exists solely so that people can freely express themselves—sometimes in ways that make other people uncomfortable. We’re First Amendment extremists that way. Always have been.”
“Underage prostitution is a persistent problem in this country, but as we established in last week’s cover story, it exists at a level that is nothing like what is being trumpeted by Amber Lyon on the behalf of activists who want to put us out of business.”
“We’ve spent millions of dollars putting in place strict policies and monitoring services to make sure that it is only adults finding each other through Backpage.com‘s adult pages.”
Tony Ortega July 06 2011
As the debacle escalated and more victims were given the courage to come forward, the more law enforcement got involved. Until it bled into an expense of the taxpayers to burden in Senate Investigations.
Meanwhile Lacey and Larkin had tucked “ownership” under a “C.E.O.” in Amsterdam and plugged in another sex trafficking site they had long owned, “Big City” into the back door of Backpage.
Big City is a sex trafficking site that was joined into Backpage and Lacey and Larkin had been raking in big bucks from this site for years before they grabbed onto Backpage and merged them.
The intent for using the Village Voice as a cover and cloak for the sex trafficking syndicate is laid out like an elementary school binder.
In fact, one infamous successful sex trafficker who turned state’s evidence outlines in his memoir how he contemplated to use “Freedom of Speech” himself to circumvent established laws on sex trafficking in his book “Scores”. He was a lawyer with a criminal mind.
As law enforcement resources all the way to Senators parked in the White House grappled with how to get a handle on Backpage, at the taxpayer’s expense. I mean yes, Americans are paying for Backpage every day. The moderators working for Backpage began to crack and confess. It was discovered as early as 2006 the moderators were groomed on how to instruct child sex trafficking to pimps placing ads.
Richard Rueslas, A breaking news reporter, features reporter, and columnist, wrote a brilliant and detailed expose describing how Lacey, Larkin and Ortega were outed by Backpage staff and the consequences:
The founders of Backpage, the website accused of hosting barely-disguised solicitations for prostitution, have so far evaded criminal and civil claims by citing a federal law that gives them immunity so long as they did not actually create or develop the classified ads.
But in January, a U.S. Senate subcommittee released a report that one of its leaders said could serve as a roadmap for prosecutions and lawsuits against the website, which was started by the former Phoenix New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
The subcommittee used its power to subpoena internal emails and documents from Backpage. The documents show managers took an active role in editing ads in the adult section. The subcommittee’s report, titled “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking,” concluded that the intent was to aid prostitutes and pimps in using the website to ply their trade without making it overly obvious.
In emails, managers debated what terms should be allowed. “Dirty slut” was fine; “cheerleader” was not. Price lists were fine, so long as they didn’t include brief time periods, like half an hour. There were also specific and graphic guidelines on what type of nudity could be shown.
At times, employees — sometimes called moderators — provided individual guidance for customers posting ads, including one whose email was Urban Pimp and was advertising a “horny, mature woman.” Emails showed Backpage employees also made their standards on ads more restrictive — and their site more sanitized — at times theythought law enforcement might be closely monitoring.
The emails were released to the Senate subcommittee starting in September 2016. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said the “treasure trove” of evidence brought the actions of Backpage into new light. McCaskill, a former county prosecutor, said it was enough to bring charges against its operators.
A federal grand jury has convened in Arizona to hear evidence against Backpage, according to court papers filed by the website’s attorneys in a civil case in Washington. Attorneys revealed the existence of the grand jury inquiry in a February filing, asking that judge to hold the civil case until the criminal matters conclude. Court papers also suggest possible action by the state of Texas, where Backpage is headquartered.
If the Arizona grand jury is following the roadmap of the subcommittee’s report, it will be poring through emails that lay bare some of the inner workings of Backpage. It will also have to decide whether the website merely edited and policed its ads, or whether its actions crossed over into helping develop the ads.
A question of liability
A law professor who has closely followed the cases against Backpage said even if the website knew it was facilitating online prostitution, it was still protected by federal law.
“If an online prostitution ad comes from a third party, a website is not liable for publishing it,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law in California. “It doesn’t matter if they got paid for it. It doesn’t matter if they suspect it’s illegal. If a third party created it, the website is not liable.”
“As alleged here, the prostitution took place as a result of an advertisement placed by a third party,” the motion read. “Backpage’s decision to charge money to allow a third party to post content, as well as any decisions regarding posting rules, search engines and information on how a user can increase ad visibility, are all traditional publishing decisions and are generally immunized….”
Besides the first set of California charges, Backpage also fought off a federal grand jury investigation in 2013. The website received a subpoena seeking documents, but challenged it in court. A judge quashed the subpoena, according to a filing by the Senate subcommittee. The proceedings were sealed, the subcommittee filing said, and it is not known what jurisdiction had convened the grand jury.
An internal Backpage document called that 2013 ruling a “sweeping victory against the federal government.”
The role of editing
Backpage has been sued civilly at least twice and has beaten back statutes targeting its operations that were passed in three states.
In each of those legal battles, Backpage asserted it had immunity because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
That law gives immunity to websites that publish content created by a third party. It means websites like Facebook, Twitter and others that count on users to provide content can do so with little worry they would be sued by someone who was damaged by something a user wrote. It means, broadly, that a restaurant can’t sue Yelp if a customer uses the site to post a scathing review.
The law also allows those websites to edit content by, for example, correcting misspellings or deleting obscenities. The law describes “Good Samaritan” and “good faith” efforts to block offensive material from a website.
The Senate report argued the internal emails from Backpage revealed the website was not merely publishing ads, but was “editing content to conceal illegality.” Doing that, the Senate report said, meant Backpage was no longer protected by Section 230.
The Senate report cited a 2008 decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said website operators can cross the line by editing “in a manner that contributes to the alleged illegality.” A website that does so, according to the decision, “is directly involved in the alleged illegality and is not immune.”
A Washington Supreme Court decision said the actions of Backpage were worth exploring, ruling in 2015 that a civil suit brought by three people who said they were sold as underage prostitutes on the site could continue. The ruling said Backpage was accused of doing “more than just provid(ing) a forum for illegal content; the plaintiffs allege the defendants helped develop it.” Attorneys in that civil case said in a motion they would use the disclosed emails to help prove their case against Backpage.
The man who was convicted of being the pimp to two of the underage girls who filed that suit wrote a letter to their lawyers from prison. “Having used Backpage, I’m fully aware of their minimal efforts to thwart the sex trafficking of minors and how simple it is to avoid their security provisions,” wrote Sabir Shabazz. He said he hoped to help the defendants win their case against Backpage.
The two men, who were among the group of journalists who built up the alternative weekly tabloid New Times into a national chain big enough to buy out New York’s venerated weekly, Village Voice, have not responded to interview requests from The Arizona Republic.
Moderators, filters scan ads
It is not entirely clear why Backpage started editing its ads. One employee who worked as a “moderator” of the ads said, in a deposition taken as part of the Washington civil suit, that the editing was done to allow illegal activity to be conducted through the site. He did not say anything about shielding users from objectionable content.
The employee, Adam Padilla, said in his deposition that words were deleted from ads because “those terms made it clear that the person was asking for, you know, money for prostitution.” Padilla said that a “significant” number of ads on Backpage were for the purposes of prostitution.
Padilla, whose brother Andrew Padilla was the website’s chief operating officer,was deposed in August 2016. The next month, Backpage complied with a federal court order, one the website fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and began producing more than 1 million documents to the U.S. Senate. Those documents offered a peek into the internal workings of the website at the time it made millions of dollars by selling advertisements on its “Escorts” section.
Backpage started editing ads in 2006, according to the U.S. Senate report, and partly automated it in 2010. At times, it employed moderators who worked in India.
The moderation was done at the direction of Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com. Ferrer had worked in classified advertising for the New Times tabloid chain and had urged the creation of an online extension of those ads.
A filter was designed that would automatically scrape out words deemed inappropriate, according to the U.S. Senate report. Among them, the report says, were “full service,” “teenage” and “quickie.”
Some words would result in an ad being rejected entirely, according to the emails. Other words would result in automatic editing that would delete the objectionable phrase and let the rest of the ad post.
Some users complained, according to emails, that editing made their ads illegible. One woman wrote in an email that her ad that advertised a model who was “barely 18” ended up reading as if she were offering 18 models.
‘Lipstick on a pig’
By late 2010, the report says, Backpage was internally reporting that 70 to 80 percent of its ads were being edited, either automatically or by the employee known as a moderator. In an August 2010 email, Ferrer said that 20 moderators were employed to edit ads, including the deletion of “code words for sex for money.”
Backpage would let would-be advertisers know why an ad was censored, telling them what forbidden word was used, the report says. In essence, the Senate report says, this served to train customers about how to post ads that would pass muster.
One moderator described the practice as “putting lipstick on a pig,” according to the Senate report.
What terms should be filtered out became the subject of several of the emails included in the report. In 2011, for example, a manager said he decided to allow the words “hung” and “naughty.” Additionally, users could also use the term “flat rate” next to a price, the email said.
Larkin cautioned Ferrer in a 2011 email about what would happen if the website’s editing procedures were made public. “We need to stay away from the very idea of ‘editing’ the posts, as you know,” Larkin wrote. “I want to be certain that you are comfortable with the revelation of the security items. And the general tone.”
Backpage relied on its filtering system to help it avoid the fate of its main competitor, Craigslist. The Connecticut attorney general had called Craigslist a “blatant Internet brothel” in 2009. That website restricted and then shut down its adult-oriented classified ads.
Finding a new opportunity
In September 2010, when Craigslist shut down its adult section, Ferrer sent an email, included in the Senate report, about the news. “Craig killed his adult section last night in all US markets,” it read. “It is an opportunity for us. Also a time when we need to make sure our content is not illegal.” Ferrer warned that Backpage would be “under close scrutiny by media, craig and AG’s next week.”
Backpage attempted to clean up its site by expanding the list of words or phrases that would trigger rejection of a potential ad entirely.
In October 2010, various public officials and state attorneys general had publicly criticized Backpage or written letters asking it to follow the lead of Craigslist and remove adult ads from its site. That month, the attorney general of Massachusetts held a public hearing on the role of websites in facilitating human trafficking.
This put Backpage in a “crisis” mode, according to emails. Backpage hired a company in India to moderate posts.
In an October 2010 email to Backpage staff based in the U.S., Andrew Padilla, Backpage’s chief operating officer, authorized extra staff and overtime in order to do a four-day clean-up effort of adult ads.
Ads were allowed to contain “HBO type nudity,” he wrote. “We’re still allowing phrases with nuance, but if something strikes you as crude or obvious, remove the phrase.”
Padilla said policing words was most important. “Images aside,” he wrote, “it’s the language that’s really killing us with the Attorneys General. Images are almost an afterthought to them.”
Padilla told the staff to err on the side of caution. “You’re not going to get in trouble for being too clean right now,” he wrote in an Oct. 17, 2010, email.
In December 2010, Ferrer ordered a “deep cleaning” of older ads, removing phrases and images that were allowed under the previous less-stringent standards.
Ferrer wrote that the task was urgent because “CNN is running a report soon.”
Lists of banned terms
In January 2011, in an apparent response to the CNN report, Ferrer sent an email to Padilla suggesting the terms “daddy” and “little girl” be added to the list of filtered terms. Ferrer later suggested that additional words should be added to the filter: “high school,” “school girl,” “cheerleader,” “innocent,” “tight” and “fresh.”
The next month, February 2011, Ferrer instituted a more moderate policy on the ads. He told the supervisor of the moderators in India that employees in Phoenix would be going easy on some types of violations. He said ads that included pricing, the number 69 or photos of breasts covered by arms would be allowed. “Put succinctly, moderators should err on the side of the user,” he wrote.
Padilla and Ferrer also discussed the term “lactating.” Padilla argued it should not result in an automatic rejection of an ad because, “it’s fetish and it pushes the edge at a time when we’re losing our edge.”
That same month, Ferrer, in an email, asked for a list of banned terms so he could use it at a presentation to the National Association for Missing and Exploited Children. Emails show he had another meeting with law-enforcement officials and anti-sex-trafficking advocates in July 2011.
Backpage had publicly touted its role in aiding law enforcement by having staff send alerts if ads potentially contained underage girls or criminal acts. The website had congratulatory emails from law enforcement and a list of cases where it had testified against an accused pimp.
But, according to the U.S. Senate report, Backpage’s use of an automatic filter hurt those efforts by editing out terms before any moderators would see the original ad.
Automating the deletion of key terms, according to the Senate report, “concealed the illegal nature of countless ads and systematically deleted words indicative of criminality, including child sex trafficking and prostitution of minors.”
In 2013, a moderator sent an ad to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But a supervisor, Joye Vaught, wrote to the employee, “I probably wouldn’t have reported this one.” The moderator replied in an email that “she looked drugged and has bruises.” Vaught replied: “She just doesn’t look under 18. These are the kind of reports the cops question us about. I find them all the time, it’s just usually you who sends them.”
Ferrer, in a 2009 email, wrote to an employee that he believed there was very little trafficking of underage girls on the site. He said some emails that claimed certain ads featured underage girls were written by competitors.
“I need verification like law enforcement or multiple complaints from trusted sources,” Ferrer wrote. He said the particular ad the employee raised concerns about “probably was a competitor trying to punish them.”
‘Stop pandering to yahoos’
In January 2012, Lacey offered his staff talking points via email after 14 people were indicted in a child-sex-trafficking ring in Denver that used Backpage. The month before, in Detroit, the bodies of four women were found in the trunk of a man’s car. The accused killer told police he found three of the women on Backpage.
Lacey wrote that the company’s response needed to note that “as deplorable as this case is, and it is appalling, it is one bad case amongst how many millions of ads that involved no one under age.”
Lacey also compared Backpage’s role in the case with services used by other accused criminals. “Drug dealers use cell phones, fed-x (sic),” he wrote. “When you bust them you do not advocate shutting down phone service, overnight deliveries.”
Lacey said the cases were isolated and did not represent “a tsunami of underage trafficking.”
“Prosecute this case, these individuals, get care and treatment for the victims and stop pandering to yahoos,” he wrote.
Within the walls of Backpage, moderators were told not to specifically mention prostitution in any internal notes they wrote about why they deleted an ad. Andrew Padilla wrote to one moderator that “Backpage, and you, in particular, cannot determine if any user on the site is involved with prostitution. Leaving notes on our site that imply that we’re aware of prostitution, or in any position to define it, is enough to lose your job over.”
Adam Padilla, the moderator who was deposed in a civil suit, and whose brother was the chief operating officer, said employees were also told not to discuss their jobs outside the office. “Because there was so much of that, like, nudity and prostitution stuff on a lot of the ads, so they didn’t want, they just told us not to talk about it,” he said.
Padilla, though, also said he didn’t think Backpage created or contributed to the market for online prostitution. “Because if it hadn’t been Backpage, it would have been somewhere else or some other site,” he said.
As of Friday, the adult section of Backpage was completely removed from the website. Previously, clicking on that section had brought up a page that had displayed the word “censored” and offered information about the website’s legal troubles and links to civil-liberties groups.
Meanwhile, under the Dating category of “women seeking men,” a woman named Jennifer posted photos of herself in a bikini and described herself as “Sexy, Skilled & Highly REViEWED.” After her phone number, she wrote the phrase, “Nothing illegal offered here,” next to a picture of a winking devil.
In a memo to their staff in 2012, Lacey and Larkin wrote: “For these past few decades, we have fought to ensure that our publications stood for the principles of unfettered speech, open government, accountability, and freedom of the press. We have also challenged conventional wisdom, whether delivered by pontificating pundits or self-righteous scolds. You have given readers tales well told, whether unfolding an investigation, spinning a yarn, or venturing an opinion. Enjoy the hell that you raise.”