The Gawker Archives – Village Voice Media’s Last Ditch Effort to Save Itself Will Probably Fail

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.

12.26K

09/24/12 09:20AM

Filed to: MEDIA

Village Voice Media, owner of the Voice and a dozen other alt-weeklies across the country, has decided to try a nifty trick: it’s cleaving itself in two. Executives from the company are “buying out” all of the papers, putting them into what is technically a new, standalone company. And VVM’s main profit center, hooker ad site Backpage.com, is going to be left in its own separate company, controlled by VVM bosses Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. This is a weird gambit.

The only rational reason to do this is to try to end the ongoing (and successful) PR campaign that’s been waged against the company over its ownership of Backpage, which has a pesky tendency of hosting ads for child prostitutes or sex trafficked girls once in a while. Advertisers have fled the company’s alt-weeklies as a result of the bad publicity over the past year or more. But more advertisers have fled the company’s alt-weeklies due to facts that A) Craigslist took all the classified advertising away from alt-weeklies, and B) print newspaper advertising in general has been dying for a decade. In short, alt-weeklies are a dying business model. So what’s the plan here?

I mean, sure, fine, you spin off Backpage (which had revenue close to $30 million last year, and which is a very successful business, due to the fact that it’s occupying a niche that Craigslist decided to get out of), and maybe, maybe you quiet down all the boycotts of the newspapers, which are now in a separate company. But, so what? You now have a company consisting solely of alt-weeklies, which are a dying business model, and without the hooker ad revenue that was keeping the whole thing afloat. Where is the logic? There’s a bit of obscurity in the deal—it could be that Backpage’s owners will simply turn around and funnel that money back into the papers as investors. Or, maybe it’s true what Scott Tobias, the new CEO of the group of newspapers, says to Keith Kelly:

He insisted the new company is “absolutely” profitable without the lucrative Backpage and that he has no connection to or investment in the site.

That would absolutely blow my mind if true, but… who are we to say? I mean, logically, it seems more likely that these alt-weeklies will just continue their downward spiral faster without all that hooker ad money, unless there is some financial trickery here that we’re missing. But hey, we’re pulling for them. Good luck to all alt-weekly employees, for as long as it lasts.

[Photo: Stan Wiechers/ Flickr]

 

http://gawker.com/5945821%2Fvillage-voice-medias-last-ditch-effort-to-save-itself-will-probably-fail

 

 

Every American is Paying For Backpage Organized Crime Sex Trafficking Syndicate

Annual cost to Americans for Lacey and Larkin’s Backpage online human trafficking business, which reaps them millions of dollars per month, costs the taxpayers millions monthly.  And this does not include law enforcement expenses and medical expenses.

If you do not pay taxes so you are thinking your tax dollars are not being used to deal with this, think again. Tax dollars that could be used for other purposes which affect you directly are now being used to deal with Mike Lacey and James Larkin.  Who are making millions from their online website Backpage devoted to human trafficking. One arrest report evidenced them rewarding themselves with a ten million dollar “bonus” one year.

In the beginning, it was only costing Americans millions of dollars per month in law enforcement struggles which went all the way to Senate investigations.

Now the annual cost only for running damage control on sex trafficking is hitting  American citizens at a cost of 56 million a year.  Law enforcement expenses across 52 states would tower over that.

 

“I helped turn a weekly newspaper with a Web site into a digital enterprise.”

Tony Ortega, spokesperson for Backpage, bragged to the New York Times September 24, 2012  The Village Voice newspaper was used as a front to launch Backpage.

 

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Tony Ortega

Pimps, prostitutes and child trafficking victims do not contribute to the country’s tax revenue.  They tax the system.

Last month, a lawmaker introduced a bill that would spend more than $56 million to help victims and to train students and law enforcement officers to recognize the signs of trafficking.  More than 40 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors.

 “What I discovered was a lot of legislators were aware it was happening in their districts but had no idea what to do about it,” says Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican, and chief sponsor.

House Bill 910 would allocate $37.5 million for shelter beds, $13.5 million for mental health services, and $4.5 million to educate students on the warning signs of trafficking. Brawley says a bed and services can cost up to $40,000 a year for each victim. Mental health services could cost another $15,000.

“It’s huge,” Mark Blackwell, executive director of Charlotte’s Justice Ministries says of the proposed allocation. “Money is what’s needed in this fight. We’re operating on a shoe-string budget.”

Last year his nonprofit served 150 women who were trafficking victims. “It’s pretty much all we can handle as a small, grass-roots group,” he says.

It is unclear how many minors are forced into prostitution each year, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said reports of online child sex trafficking had increased by more than 800 percent from 2010 to 2015. The organization said this was “directly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex.”

Backpage revenues increased to $135 million in 2014 from $5.3 million in 2008, and derived more than 90 percent of its earnings from its sex ads, according to the California Department of Justice.

Lacey, Larkin, and former Editor in Chief of the Village Voice, Tony Ortega, who hosted the Backpage classifieds section as part of the Village Voice, claim human trafficking is “Freedom of Speech”.

“Neither government officials nor God’s advocates can dictate such arbitrary control of business or speech,” read their response.

 mikenjames3

“Seven years ago, the people I work for were smart enough to start Backpage.com, a competitor to Craigslist,” the Voice’s Tony Ortega, who authored a number of stories criticizing concerns over sex trafficking on American shores as nothing more than “mass paranoia,” wrote in July. “What happens when two adults find each other through Backpage.com? I couldn’t tell you … [It] 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

Malika Saada Saar, a Washington-based advocate for women and girls’ rights, Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights and co-founder and Executive Director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls),  says that flying the flag of free speech is nothing more than a hollow, if savvy, defense tactic. “If I tried to sell crack online through Backpage, the Village Voice would not stand up and say this is about the first amendment,” she says—noting that there’s an exemption for advertising for drugs in the Communications Decency Act, but whereas there’s no such exemption for escort services, even when it amounts to little more than thinly veiled prostitution. “ It’s convenient and politically easy for them to frame this as a free speech issue and it’s not. It’s a human rights issue.”

Upon selling the Village Voice, (Which was a pretense. Lacey and Larkin put it in Carl Farrer’s name and carried a mortgage plus control) Lacey was still protesting.  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.’”  

 

 

And don’t forget, our tax dollars also paid the judge to throw the Backpages case out of court, as they used a loophole in the internet law to launch the crime syndicate.

In 2013 Lacey and Larkin also took the taxpayers of Arizona for 3.75 million dollars in a wrongful arrest lawsuit.  And bragged about it on the cover of another paper they own. Phoenix New Times.  The year before they awarded themselves each 10 million dollar bonus from their company.  Imagine still wanting the taxpayers of Arizona to pony up 3.75 million to their overfilling coffers.

“The profit they were making was obscene,” says Sen. Claire McCaskill, who co-authored the the senate report on Backpage. “And the fact they were comfortable making that profit on the backs of children that were being sold for sex — it’s hard to contemplate that kind of evil.”

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/joe-arpaio-loses-new-times-co-founders-win-375-million-settlement-for-2007-false-arrests-6651491

Backpage.com has earned Larkin millions and allowed him to live a life usually reserved for top-tier celebrities and Fortune 500 businessmen. Larkin’s palatial estate in Phoenix, Arizona is certainly one of the most impressive properties ever seen on “Cribs.”

The 64,000 square-foot home comes complete with two pools, a twelve-seat movie theater, an indoor basketball court, a guest house, and eight bedrooms.

Congress and Backpage were at war for several years, costing the taxpayers millions upon millions, and lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at cracking down on online sex trafficking.

Backpage (Lacey and Larkin) sued (U.S. taxpayers again) late last year to try to stop the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act from being used against the company. Backpage argued that the law was written so vaguely that it could end up ensnaring publications that do try to weed out illicit activities but inadvertently miss some postings.

Backpage hosts online classified ad pages for more than 400 U.S. cities. This is just in the United States. Senators say some of those ads involve people who have been trafficked for purposes of sex, including minors.

“Sex trafficking has thrived on the Internet in part because of the high profitability and relatively low risk associated with advertising trafficking victims’ services online in multiple locations,” the Senate subcommittee said in its report urging the contempt citation. “With the aid of online advertising, traffickers can maximize profits, evade law-enforcement detection, and maintain control of victims by transporting them quickly within and between states.”

“Child sex trafficking in America today is a corporate enterprise,” says Yiota Souras, general counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Child sex trafficking happens in every state, in every community, in every jurisdiction. It’s big business and it’s one of the worst crimes imaginable.”

A blistering bipartisan report released from the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Investigations found that “Backpage has knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing” advertisements to disguise the fact that they involve prostitution and child sex trafficking.

The state of California recently charged Ferrer, Lacey, and Larkin with money laundering and conspiracy to commit pimping. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“All they did was publish and get paid,” said attorney James Grant, according to the Sacramento Bee. He argued that prosecutors were instead cracking down on “free speech.”

“The state doesn’t have the right to prosecute, but they’re using this to continue their investigation. This process needs to stop,” Backpage attorney James Grant told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown.

Lawsuits that have been filed on behalf of children sold, raped and tortured courtesy Backpage, have been tossed out of court.

Quite simply, America has become the land of “no mercy” with ruthless disregard to the human rights of children, when in competition with corporate pirates.  And American citizens are picking up the cost of the injustice and collateral damages.

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.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/backpage-execs-forced-face-sex-trafficking-allegations-part-44753235

We infected several other countries, and every major city in them, with the same plague, as Backpage went viral. Those people have no recourse either, as Lacey and Larkin are protected citizens of the United States. And we protected them as established  Backpage  online sex trafficking  in the following countries:

Canada

Europe

Albania

Austria

Belarus

Belgium

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria

Croatia

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Iceland

Ireland

Italy

Kosovo

Latvia

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Macedonia

Malta

Monaco

Montenegro

Netherlands

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Romania

Russia

Serbia

Slovakia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Ukraine

United Kingdom

Asia, Pacific, and the Middle East

Bahrain

Bangladesh

China

Hong Kong

India

Indonesia

Israel

Japan

Jordan

Korea

Kuwait

Lebanon

Macau

Malaysia

Mongolia

Oman

Pakistan

Philippines

Qatar

Singapore

Taiwan

Thailand

Turkey

The United Arab Emirates

Vietnam

Australia and Oceania

Australia

Guam

New Zealand

Latin America and the Caribbean

Argentina

Belize

Bolivia

Brazil

Caribbean

Chile

Colombia

Costa Rica

Ecuador

El Salvador

Guatemala

Guyana

Honduras

Mexico

Nicaragua

Panama

Paraguay

Peru

Suriname

Uruguay

Venezuela

Africa

Cameroon

Egypt

Ivory Coast

Morocco

Nigeria

South Africa

For more information see:

http://www.iamjanedoefilm.com

The Gawker Archives on Village Voice Child Sex Trafficking

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 straight forward 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 Has a Child Prostitution Problem (Updated)

Craigslist shut down its Adult Services section, caving to Attorneys General and anti-sex trafficking groups. But, as we pointed out, there are many other places to buy sex online. One, Backpage.com, is being sued by a former child prostitute.

According to Ars Technica, the former child prostitue was hawked on Backpage.com—a Craigslist knockoff owned by Village Voice Media—by her pimp starting at age 14. In her lawsuit, she claims that VVM knew that the explicit pictures her pimp posted of her on Backpage depicted a minor, and that they were advertising prostitution. This knowledge, the suit argues, should put exempt them from the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for what their users post.

From Ars Technica:

“Defendant had a strong suspicion that the aforementioned crimes were being committed,” reads the complaint. “Defendant had a desire that these posters accomplished their nefarious illegal prostitution activities so that the posters would return to the website and pay for more posting.”

Look for anti-trafficking activists and Attorneys General, flush from their victory over Craigslist, to jump on Backpage and its thriving “adult” section next. The Village Voice sure has been having a lot of penis-related financial troubles, lately. (via mediaite)

Update:
We’ve received a statement from Village Voice Media’s Steve Suskind. In it, he writes:

The lawsuit is riddled with errors. The claim that we knowingly assisted [the child’s pimp] in committing criminal acts is a lie fabricated by a trial lawyer looking for a payday. The attorney seeks to redirect blame from a convicted predator to Backpage.com, which helped prosecute the criminal.

Without our knowledge, the predator violated our terms of use. Backpage.com has stringent safeguards in place to ensure that only adults use the site. We provided the FBI with the perpetrator’s I.P. address and credit-card information.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 recognized that the very nature of the Internet meant that vast traffic depended on the ability of citizens to post directly onto websites like Backpage.com, Facebook, MySpace or eBay, or to have search engines like Google and Yahoo find postings without pre-screening or censorship. The responsibility, under the law, rests with the person supplying the post.

In the last two years, Backpage.com has had 58 million posts, of which 6 million were adult. In this vast exchange of information, law enforcement agencies have asked for our testimony in precisely five underage cases.

Because one case is too many, we have, and we will continue to, cooperate willingly with authorities.

09/19/10 01:58PM

Filed to: PROSTITUTION
NOTE: Village Voice Media did not cooperate with Authorities and owners were held in contempt of Congress.   Furthermore it was discovered the moderators at Village Voice Classifieds were coaching people on how to place the ads and pocketing the advertising dollars. 
 Minors are trafficking victims.  There is no such thing as a child prostitute. By definition & law, minors are trafficked.

The Gawker Archives On Village Voice Sex Slavery and Ashton Kutcher

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 straight forward 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.

Ashton Kutcher Will Destroy Newspaper Over Sex Slavery Article

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07/01/11 03:51PM

Filed to: FEUDS

Famous Twitter user Ashton Kutcher is extremely upset at the Village Voice. The paper wrote a cover story making fun of him and bashing his anti-sex trafficking efforts. Now he will make sure no company advertises in the paper or on its site, ever.

There must be no digital entertainment conferences happening this week, because tech guru Ashton Kutcher has spent much of the last couple days locked in a fierce Twitter battle with the Voice over its article debunking the sex slavery panic he has done much to promote, with his incomprehensible “Real Men” ads. Of course, Village Voice Media makes tons of money from its Backpage.com classifieds site, which has itself been accused of facilitating the trafficking that the paper says is not a big deal.

There have been plenty of good jabs on both sides—Kutcher pointing out the 15-year-old who is suing Village Voice Media for allegedly allowing her to be trafficked on Backpage, the Village Voice tweeting a link to a story about Ashton and Demi chilling with “confessed pimp” Snoop Dogg.

But now, Ashton Kutcher has decided to get serious, resorting to the Twitter-favorite tactic of whining to advertisers when an outlet publishes something you don’t like.

“Hey @AmericanAir,” Kutcher tweeted, “are you aware that you are advertising on a site that supports the Sale of Human Beings (slavery)?”

Whatever poor social media person was running American Airlines’ Twitter account must have had a heart attack over their Subway footlong, because they responded instantly with, “We will address this IMMEDIATELY. Can you please DM us detail of the site, including link?” It’s going to be a let down when they learn it’s just the Village Voice, not something like humanbeings4sale.com.

It’s hard to take sides in this conflict. I’m inclined to support the Village Voice, because the article marshaled convincing evidence even if it was transparently self-interested, and running to advertisers over an article you don’t like is some schoolyard bullshit. And since Ashton Kutcher has as many followers as a small country, he may actually succeed in killing off the Village Voice, which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Just shut up, and start your own newspaper dedicated solely to stomach-churning underaged sex slavery stories, Ashton Kutcher.

Updates: Wow, like Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter freakout has convinced American Airlines to stop advertising with the Village Voice. Sex slavery problem: Solved.

[Photo of Kutcher via Getty]

The Gawker Archives on Village Voice Hooker Ad Controversy

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 straight forward 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.

The Whole Hooker Ad Controversy Is Back

12.24K

12/10/10 01:16PM

Filed to: MEDIA CRACK

In your ferocious Friday media column: bad PR for Village Voice Media, Glenn Greenwald‘s in fine form, Bloomberg’s up, the NYT Co. is down, and Judith Regan still exists.

  • Ooo, 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 persons ads, unfortunately. I wouldn’t expect VVM to do that, though, because, money. Craigslist didn’t need it, but VVM really does.

http://gawker.com/5711399/the-whole-hooker-ad-controversy-is-back

The Gawker Archives on Village Voice Hooker Ads.

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 straight forward 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.

Let’s Write Some Hooker Ads!

7.53K

07/03/07 09:40AM

Filed to: LIES WELL DISGUISED

94 years ago, liar H.K. McCann launched his NYC ad agency with the slogan “Truth Well Told.” That was a big fat lie. Advertising copywriter Copyranter brings you instances of advertising lies and the lying liars who sell them.

Last week in AdAge Lenore Skenazy got her panties (or whatever her choice of undergarment is) in a bunch over the adult classified ads in the back of reputable newspapers and magazines—she claims they’re for hookers! The ads also upset me—they’re boring! I’ve lined up three ads for alleged Ladies of the Night. Let’s see if we can come up with some come-ons.

Back In May, I took a stab at writing lines for a SheMale escort ad. This time, I grabbed the latest copy of the Village Voice and turned to the “adult bodywork” section. It’s spread out on my desk right now. My art director Keri just walked by, shaking her head.

First up, Yoko. As you may or may not know, the adult classifieds are chock full of Asian women. So Yoko needs a little something else to break through the clutter. Iif she’s gonna use that name, then I think she’s gotta play it up:

  • Be My John?
  • Oh No, You’ve Never Had Better.
  • Give This Piece A Chance.
  • Next: Atasha. Yes, she certainly is a piece of (yawn) dark chocolate. I do like the fun typeface on her name, but she needs to sweeten that sales pitch!
  • What Can Brown Do For You?
  • Godiva’s Got Nuthin’ On My Box Of Chocolate.
  • Fudgie The Tail (eh).
  • Lastly, there’s Ruth. Well, I applaud the effort here with the candy bar reference. But we can do a little better.
  • Ruth Likes It Uncouth.
  • RUTH. BABE. (big Helvetica type, ghosted over her pic)
  • Ruth something something…
  • OK, I wrote this post this morning at 8, because I had to work past midnight last night because my boss is in the goddamn Hamptons this week in his fancy house on the bay. So, feel free to write your oh-so superior lines in the comments, Or not. I don’t care. I’m tired.
  • Previously: The Best Ad In The World

Mazzio, Oz: Kids are no match for ‘Backpage’

hc1

Reposting here for those that have no access to a subscription at the Houston Chronicle

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Mazzio-Oz-Kids-are-no-match-for-Backpage-11107837.php

April 28, 2017

What you are about to read is going to shock you.

Every minute of every day in this country, children are bought and sold for sex on the internet. Scheduled on the hour, by the hour. With the ruthless efficiency of technology, these children are shuttled from motel room to motel room and raped upwards of 15 times per day.

It happens to children of all incomes, ethnicities and color. Mostly girls, but also boys. Many are first preyed upon in chat rooms, at the mall, or at fast-food restaurants. And then these children simply disappear, without a trace.

Many of them do resurface, on a website called Backpage.com. According to a recent U.S. Senate report, this company, headquartered in Dallas, has earned hundreds of millions of dollars per year from its sex ads, including those of children. In all 50 states.

How can it be legal to host ads selling children for sex?

It shouldn’t be. Yet despite multiple lawsuits filed by child victims and a lengthy Senate investigation headed by Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Backpage has dodged every bullet, winning every legal challenge to date. Armed with an expensive team of lawyers, Backpage has deftly managed to shield itself with an outdated internet freedom law that protects web sites from being sued for content posted by a third party. This law (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) was originally intended to protect a budding internet industry from lawsuits based on defamatory posts by its users. However, Section 230 now allows for the proliferation of fake news, scam ads, and is being interpreted by judges to protect websites that facilitate child sex trafficking.

And Backpage has some surprising allies. Two internet special interest groups funded by technology companies, The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have swooped in to defend Backpage, actively intervening in several cases and doing so persuasively.

That is worth repeating. Via these special interest groups, tech industry giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others are financing the defense of Backpage. This can no longer continue.

Let’s be clear. We cannot stand for the idea that the sale of children is acceptable collateral damage for a free and open internet. Especially since companies now have the technological means to stop it.

Last month, Backpage announced that it was shuttering the Escorts section of its website under pressure from the government. However, analysts reported that a majority of these sex ads simply moved to the dating pages of Backpage. The many other sex sites owned and operated by Backpage in the U.S. were not shut down, and the purchase and sale of children continues online today.

President Trump recently signaled that he would bring the full weight of the government to help in the fight against human trafficking, including giving law enforcement agencies better tools to go after criminals. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is among those working on legislation to do the same. It can’t come soon enough. But Congress also has to act by specifically amending Section 230 to make it clear that it is not legal to facilitate child sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, has recently introduced legislation to do just this, and we hope that a Senate version will be drafted in the coming months. We’ve started a petition on Change.org to tell the tech community that it’s time to switch sides, and we hope you will join us, too.

Mazzio is an award-winning filmmaker. Her new film, “I AM JANE DOE,” which chronicles the battle that several children are waging against Backpage, debuts on iTunes May 12 and with Netflix on May 26. Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon, Emmy Award-winning host of the Dr. Oz Show, and father of four.

http://www.iamjanedoefilm.com

 

hc