The Senate last week passed a resolution exhorting Backpage.com to end publication of its adult entertainment section.
The measure was sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk and co-sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Kirk spouted the hyped up bollox:
The numbers are rising, in part because it has become frighteningly simple to order a child prostitute on the Internet. One merely needs to look at the classified ads on Backpage.com, the leading Web site for prostitution advertising in the United States
according to the Advanced Interactive Media, AIM, Group. Just a few clicks on this site easily enables 'johns' to purchase children for sex. Law enforcement believes that the existence of Backpage encourages the recruitment of victims for sexual
exploitation because it allows traffickers to operate out of sight from police patrols.
Backpage.com argues that it works closely with law enforcement to identify, track down and arrest anyone trafficking minors through the site. One such criminal was convicted in Florida a few weeks ago.
The 'Justice' for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) a piece of bipartisan anti-trafficking legislation that has been criticised for its prioritisation of law
enforcement, passed the US House of Representatives by 420 votes to three on 19th of May. The legislation will now head to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.
The problematic Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (SAVE) had been added on to the bill. This legislation would allow website owners to be charged as sex traffickers if any trafficking victims are found to have been advertised on the
site--whether or not the website owner had any knowledge of this happening. Sponsors of the bill have specifically stated that their intent is to shut down , or at least seriously cripple, advertising spaces for sex workers, such as Backpage.com, which
would take away from sex workers a safe space for screening clients.
Carl Ferrer, head of small ads website Backpage.com has been arrested on allegations of pimping, the California Attorney General
has announced .
In a rather blatant conflating of trafficking with adult consensual sex work, the department said that a three-year investigation concluded that many of its adult escort adverts involved prostitutes and victims of sex trafficking, including
children. Warrants have also been issued for two controlling shareholders.
The site, which operates around the world, is still online.
Last month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against
Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. After an interim scare, the judge has now issued a final judgement confirming the previous ruling and the charges have been dismissed.
The CEO, Carl Ferrer was charged with pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping in connection to online advertisements posted on the online ads portal. California's attorney general Kamala Harris claimed that advertisements
amounted to solicitation of prostitution.
However Judge Michael Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads posted by
others. The ruling said:
By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider.
California attorney general Kamala Harris is pursuing new charges against Backpage.com website
The fresh charges, which attorney general Kamala Harris claims are based on new evidence, come after an earlier case against the website was thrown out of court.
The website advertises escort services and seems t have wound up Harris who claimed that the site operated a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity .
Harris said she had charged Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. They also are charged with 26 counts of money laundering. In the latest case, filed in Sacramento
County superior court, Harris claims Backpage illegally funnelled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. (This does not seem a particularly surprising, or necessarily bad
thing to do).
She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission in order to increase revenue and knowingly profited from the proceeds of prostitution. And from what Harris said in a statement it seems that
hers is a morality campaign against sex work. Harris said:
By creating an online brothel -- a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity -- Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation.