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.”
NOTE: Another report I am archiving for reference. News Latitude Archives – As News Latitude’s Twitter has been inactive since 2013. This article appears to have been written in 2013 after Lacey and Larkin sold the Voice in September of 2012, split with Ortega, and walked away with Backpage.
Over the past few years, the pressure had been mounting. Activists, senators, attorney generals, non-profits as well as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had all been accusing the classified site Backpage.com of promoting the illegal sex trade and enabling human trafficking. And they weren’t just targeting the classified site, they were also going after its parent company Village Voice Media, owner of the iconic New York weekly the Village Voice.
This week it was announced that the Village Voice and 12 other alternative weeklies of the same ilk are parting ways with Backpage. com. They have been sold to the Voice Media company whose new CEO admitted that the controversy around Backpage.com “has been a distraction, there’s no doubt about it.”
As we reported previously in Latitude News, the controversy over the Backpage.com ads and their links to the trafficking of underage girls make for an interesting contrast with what happened in Amsterdam a few years ago.
When they were part of the same company, the response from the Village Voice to the charges against Backpage.com was robust. Tony Ortega, who was editor of Village Voice until a few weeks ago, called underage trafficking an imaginary problem, driven by “mass panic.” He characterized the estimate of up to a quarter million kids trafficked a year “guesses by activist professors, junk science by nonprofit groups trying to extract money from Congress, and manipulation by religious groups hiding their real agendas about sex work.” He cited FBI data showing that on average about 200 underage kids a year is saved from forced prostitution. Lacey and Larkin, by all accounts, are unlikely to change this tune.
Moral Panic in Amsterdam
The Netherlands has been through a similar debate, even though in that country both adult prostitution and pimping are legal. Starting in 2006, a spate of alarmist TV and press reports claimed Dutch school girls were being groomed for prostitution by a new brand of pimp known as a “Lover Boy.” Lover Boys were purported to be second- and third-generation Dutch Moroccans and Antilleans. Frank Bovenkerk, a cultural anthropologist from the University of Amsterdam, scoffed. Bovenkerk, in fact, suggested this was just a symptom of “moral panic” (sound familiar?) and an attempt to demonize second-generation immigrants.
The mayor of Amsterdam commissioned Bovenkerk to get to the bottom of the allegations. What Bovenkerk found, in a 2006 report [in Dutch] updated in 2011 in the academic journal Crime, Media, Culture, was that Lover Boys were real. He estimated that there were 100 of them in Amsterdam and that they each controlled several legal prostitutes, a large number of whom had been recruited as children.
Bovenkerk’s findings shocked the Dutch, stimulated a national debate and contributed to the closing of 51 red-light prostitution windows and some brothels in Amsterdam in 2007 and 2008.
The Dutch reacted to a research report, which estimated that a few hundred girls were at risk. In the U.S., the FBI’s number of 200 a year is used as proof that the problem is overblown. Backpage.com counsel Liz McDougall has, in the past, even argued that because it cooperates with prosecutors, it is better for all that the site does not pull its adult services ads offline.
The sad truth is it’s extraordinarily hard to get girls to testify against their pimps, whether it be in the U.S. or in places like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Jean Custers, head of the Dutch Trafficking police team, says “girls are terrorized, pimps sometimes threaten to harm younger members of their families if they talk. Very few girls are prepared to testify in such a situation.” As Kristof noted earlier this year in his New York Times column, in the U.S., police often detain girls instead of rescuing them.
Andrea Powell thinks that, unlike the Netherlands, the U.S. is refusing to acknowledge its trafficking issue. Her anti-trafficking organization, FAIR Girls, sees about 1,000 girls a year in Washington, D.C. “A fifth tell us they are being groomed or pimped,” says Powell.
Backpage.com and its kind will certainly continue to come under pressure from lawmakers, although in one of the latest showdowns, in the state of Washington, Village Voice Media won a temporary restraining order against a state law that for the first time forced advertisers to provide documentary proof that their escorts are over 18. Lacey, according to The Arizona Republic, “likened it to holding FedEx responsible if someone used its services to mail pornography.”
“Lacey, who has the words “hold fast” tattooed on his fingers, spoke with relish about the political and court fights ahead over Backpage.com. ‘It’s a retirement from journalism,’ he said. ‘This entire thing is still a First Amendment issue.’”
Andrea Powell of FAIR Girls, however, is undeterred. As she told Latitude News: “Village Voice Media stakeholders separated themselves from Backpage.com because of our campaign.” She concedes that her cause will not have the same kind of leverage they had previously given there are no advertisers to put pressure on. But, she says, “we are not going to stop.”
“There is only one acceptable solution to FAIR Girls, and that is for Backpage.com to shut the adult section of their classified advertising web site and end the selling of girls online. For as long as Backpage.com exists, we will continue to fight for the rights of the girls being advertised by their pimps on Backpage.com.”
For more than twenty months, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations investigated the problem of online child sex trafficking.
The investigation led the Subcommittee to focus on Backpage.com, the leading online marketplace for commercial sex. Operating in 97 countries and 943 locations worldwide—and last valued at more than a half-billion dollars—Backpage is the world’s second-largest classified advertising website.
Backpage is involved in 73% of all child trafficking reports that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) receives from the general public (excluding reports by Backpage itself).
The National Association of Attorneys General has aptly described Backpage as a “hub” of “human trafficking, especially the trafficking of minors.”
This report contains three principal findings. First, Backpage has knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its “adult” ads. As early as 2006, Backpage executives began instructing staff responsible for screening ads (known as “moderators”) to edit the text of adult ads to conceal the true nature of the underlying transaction.
“From its earliest days, the Village Voice has run adult classifieds. Today, those classifieds are hosted online at Backpage.com.” Tony Ortega June 29, 2011
“We’re being told that there’s a widespread, growing and out-of-control problem to fear in our country. And it has a catchy name: ‘trafficking,’” wrote Tony Ortega, editor-in-chief of The Village Voice, in an editorial last year. “The actual data behind this ‘epidemic’ is wanting in the extreme. It involves guesses by activist professors, junk science by nonprofit groups trying to extract money from Congress, and manipulation by religious groups hiding their real agendas about sex work.” Tony Ortega July 06, 2011
“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.” Tony Ortega July 06 2011
“I helped turn a weekly newspaper with a Web site into a digital enterprise.” Tony Ortega Former editor in chief of the Village Voice brags to Media Decoder @ N.Y. Times Sept 14 2012
After his arrest for pimping, Lacey went on the Lam and began sending out hush money checks to former staff that could receive subpoenas. During the investigation of Village Voice / Backpage.com child sex trafficking debacle.
How many former staff took the payoffs to lay low and keep quiet? That is, in addition to their “severance” pay and ” bonus’ “. In some cases, mighty generous.
In addition to the above, I have confirmed that Steven Lemons took the same 5K payola.
If you received a check or have knowledge of those who received cash for silence please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Above are various mug shots for Mike Lacey, recently arrested on pimping charges. He was the owner/investor of the Village Voice along with James Larkin, as well, the owner of Phoenix New Times and several other websites.
Like the Village Voice, Phoenix New Times became a “giveaway” flyer. The “paper” was the front for the online advertising of Backpage.com.
In 2010 the paper was already a pimp’s rag. Oct 19, 2010 – “They say pimpin’ aint easy. Sometimes it’s so hard that a pimp is forced to take drastic measures to keep his pimp hand strong.”
As far back as 2011 protesters stood in front of Phoenix New Times as it was the other front for Backpage.com prostitution/child sex trafficking Internet site.
The executives and staff that worked at the Village Voice and Phoenix New Times gaslighted anyone stepping forward concerned about the children being trafficked on Backpage.com, as “religious zealots”, religious nuts”, “politically motivated” or “greedy for funding from Congress”. In other words, they were all crazy, hallucinatory, or filthy with hidden agendas.
Anyone exploiting women and children through sex trafficking would probably not be aware that others could sincerely care about these women and children.
Lacey was arrested along with James Larkin on pimping charges and their pity plea has been, “Freedom of Speech”.
“The actions of the California and Texas Attorneys General are flatly illegal”, Liz McDougall, general counsel for Backpage, said in a statement to CNNMoney Friday evening. “They ignore the holdings of numerous federal courts that the First Amendment protects the ads on Backpage.com.”
Hmmm, that would not be Lacey’s “freedom of speech”. It is the freedom of speech of the people placing the ads sex trafficking. None of them are complaining, are they? Never mind, let’s not get reasonable at this late date.
According to a criminal complaint filed in California, Backpage accepted at least $2 million a month between October 2014 and May 2015 in payments from people posting adult ads in California, including payments for postings that featured minors. There was solid evidence Backpage.com staff were actively engaged in aiding and amplifying sex trafficking of women and children.
Lacey founded the Phoenix New Times in 1970 — and a dozen weeklies in cities across the country. Lord knows he had decades between that, the Village Voice, and other media investments, to run his mouth until his tongue dropped out, and to speak freely as often he cared. But he has now included human trafficking and child sex trafficking as part of his “freedoms”.
In these new conditions, with the Internet up, and newspapers folding, he, and his staff relied on human/sex trafficking dollars paid for advertising in the classifieds sections of the papers, for selling women and children. The papers became “giveaways” (free flyers) And this became a platform for “freedom of speech”. Pimping, investing in selling children and women, became “freedom of speech”.
Backpage.com was called “the world’s top online brothel” by California Attorney General Kamala Harris in October when she filed the charges against the company’s chief executive officer, Carl Ferrer. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”
In court, however, Lacey pleaded the fifth. He did not care for any “freedom of speech”.
It didn’t end there. Lacey was discovered sending checks to former staff that could actually receive a subpoena, making local politicians, and tampering with court proceedings. He was also held in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the investigation.
Stephen Lemons was one of the people that took 5000.00 of payola from Lacey while Lacey was on the lam.
All said Lacey and his partners played corporate shill games as well. Having the business placed under Carl Ferrer in Amsterdam. After they loaned him the money to buy them out.
After managing to escape justice through all manner of shady dealings including claiming to be a victim of having his first amendment rights violated, Lacey skipped out free to continue until he was further busted by Senate findings. It came to light that “moderators” (ad takers) for Backpage classifieds, were coaching people on how to place the ads while Lacey and his partner Larkin, were pocketing the revenue.
After getting busted by the discovery of emails proving Backpage.com staff were editing ads for prostitution, (actually pimping), Mike Lacey closed Backpage right before a Senate hearing to avoid the press of it all.
But Lacey pleaded “victim” that fell under “relentless pressure” from a government that trampled on his “first amendment” rights to invest in pimping and sex trafficking.
The most recent scandal involved Lacey and his partner Larkin giving tens of thousands of dollars in donations to local political figures in Arizona. Using their own spouses as shills.
Last week Lacey’s paper (Lacey is “former owner” at this time, that possible corporate shilling I have not looked into yet) Phoenix New Times, ran a front page invitation to his pity party, gaslighting anyone that might have paid attention to his most recent criminality. The writer was Stephen Lemons.
I do wonder how many hours Lacey spent viewing photos from the photo shoot, trying to decide which one would make him look victimized or human. At any rate, they chose this one.
And Stephen describes him as the victim in the fight for “freedom of speech”. A freedom fighter! Backpage was making two million a month from sex trafficking near the end. Poor Mike.
Oddly, the same day this was published Stephen Lemons announced he is taking a new job in Alabama after thirteen years at the Phoenix New Times, hero worshiping Lacey and Larkin in his farewell, and lamenting that he was not able to extort sex, for publishing stories.
Good thing I grabbed a snapshot, after some taunting on Twitter about him publishing a story for Lacey pity the same day he leaves, (Severance pay? Bonus? ) he removed it.
In the event this has all become a very complex issue for you to wrap your head around, rest assured it was the intention of Lacey, Larkin, their legal representatives, and staff, to make it seem too complicated to understand this simple criminality. Organized crime and racketeering.
Stephen Lemons treks to Las Vegas, to explore the “Mob Museum”.
A few days later, Phoenix New Times showcased a “successful pimp” in his 70’s. “Not unusual,” the article said. And now that Lacey is not the “proper” owner, and backpage.com has shut its adult section, sex trafficking is even addressed. Boasting of the rising demand for buying children for sex.
Causes me wonder how much Lacey and Lemons would protect “Freedom of Speech” ads if folks could go online and hire a hit man without much ado?
UPDATE April 2018
As Mike Lacey is released on a million dollar bond after his partner Carl Ferrer comes clean with the feds, He is seen exiting the courthouse with his wife in Phoenix and who is lurking in the background? Steven Lemons. Creepy.