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posted by martyb on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Taking-a-si-SESTA dept.

Notorious website backpage.com has been seized according to NY Daily News.

Sex ads platform Backpage.com was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Friday hours after its founder's Phoenix home was raided.

Visitors to the site landed on a notice from the federal government announcing its seizure.

"Backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center," the announcement read.

Founder's home also raided by the FBI Friday morning.

U.S. Government Seizes backpage.com

The FBI, Justice Department, and other agencies have seized backpage.com, and one of the co-founders had their home raided:

On Friday, federal law enforcement authorities seized Backpage domain names, including Backpage.com and Backpage.ca. In addition, the Arizona Republic reported that on Friday morning, law enforcement raided the Sedona-area home of Michael Lacey, a co-founder of the site.

For years, Backpage has acted with impunity as a place that offered thinly veiled online prostitution ads. In December 2016, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and his co-defendants beat back a state prosecution in California.

Sex workers aren't happy, and could be endangered by the move as well as the recent passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA). SESTA is not yet in effect.

Also at CNN, WSJ, The Hill, and The Verge.

Previously: Supreme Court Chief Justice Blocks Congressional Subpoena Over First Amendment Rights
Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping"
"Pimping" Charges Against Backpage Executives Dismissed
After Release of U.S. Senate Report, Backpage Shuts Down U.S. Adult Section

Related: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - 20 Years of Protecting Intermediaries
Craigslist Removes Personals Sections in the U.S.


Original Submission #1 Original Submission #2

Related Stories

Supreme Court Chief Justice Blocks Congressional Subpoena Over First Amendment Rights 45 comments

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday temporarily blocked a congressional subpoena that seeks information on how the classified advertising website Backpage.com screens ads for possible sex trafficking.

The order came hours after Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer asked the high court to intervene, saying the case threatens the First Amendment rights of online publishers.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Friday that the website must respond to the subpoena within 10 days. Roberts said Backpage does not have to comply with the appeals court order until further action from the Supreme Court.

[...] The Senate panel has tried for nearly a year to force Backpage to produce certain documents as part of its investigation into human trafficking over the Internet.

After the website refused to comply, the Senate voted 96-0 in March to hold the website in contempt.

[...] While Backpage has produced over 16,000 pages of documents responding to the subpoena, Ferrer said documents relating to the website's system for reviewing ads are part of the editorial process protected under the First Amendment.

"This case presents a question of exceptional nationwide importance involving the protection the First Amendment provides to online publishers of third-party content when they engage in core editorial functions," Ferrer said in a brief filed to Roberts.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_SUPREME_COURT_SEX_TRAFFICKING


Original Submission

Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping" 15 comments

Backpage, an online classified advertising website, has had its offices in Dallas, Texas raided. The CEO was arrested in Texas on a California warrant, and two others have also been charged with crimes related to the operation of the website:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that a three-year-long joint investigation revealed that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appear on the web site. They also alleged that Ferrer and shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin made millions of dollars from illegal sex trade.

Ferrer faces charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping, while Lacey and Larkin face conspiracy to commit pimping charges. Lacey and Larkin were not in custody on Thursday, and it was not immediately clear when Ferrer would make his first court appearance. Undercover officers in California posted escort ads online that led them to johns who used Backpage, and authorities interviewed more than a half dozen sex trafficking victims who confirmed they paid Backpage to post ads on the web site promoting prostitution.

[...] In addition to its adult services ads, Backpage also publishes advertising from people renting apartments, selling a car or advertising a job opening. But the company's internal revenue reports show that from January 2013 to March 2015, nearly 99% of Backpage's worldwide income was generated from the web site's "adult" section, according to charging documents filed in California. The company collected over $51 million revenue in California during that period.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a Chicago-area Sheriff who was ordered by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop threatening credit card companies that do business with Backpage. A month ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked a Congressional subpoena into the site's operations on First Amendment grounds.

Law enforcement officials around the country have complained about prostitution (especially that of children) facilitated by Backpage for years. Now California and Texas officials will have to prove that Backpage's seemingly hands-off approach is illegal. Reason's blog notes that Carl Ferrer is not accused of performing the crimes he has been charged with, but is accused of running a website that others used to facilitate crimes. Backpage also reports ads suspected of containing under-18s to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC's President says the organization applauds the charges and that "the criminal action initiated today will lead to new hope for children who are sold for sex online."

Also at NYT, Dallas News, NBC, CNN, Reuters, and Ars Technica. Redacted California criminal complaint.

The first result in a Google News search for "backpage" is sometimes a randomly placed text ad for their site: "Free classified ads with photos. Find houses and apts for rent, personals, jobs, cats and dogs for sale."


Original Submission   Alternate Submission #1   Alternate Submission #2

"Pimping" Charges Against Backpage Executives Dismissed 13 comments

Executives for the online classified advertising website Backpage have seen the charges against them dismissed:

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. The tables seemed to turn after a November 16 hearing in which Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman decided against following his tentative ruling. But on Friday, the judge issued a final order that virtually mirrored the earlier one: charges dismissed.

[...] Judge 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.

"Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech in that Congress did not wish to hold liable online publishers for the action of publishing third-party speech and thus provided for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial. Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not this Court, to revisit," the judge initially ruled. Judge Bowman issued nearly the same language (PDF) in his latest ruling: "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."

Previously: Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping"


Original Submission

After Release of U.S. Senate Report, Backpage Shuts Down U.S. Adult Section 36 comments

Hours after the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report claiming that online classifieds website Backpage "knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its adult ads", Backpage shut down the U.S. adult advertising section of its site:

The online classified advertising site Backpage.com abruptly shut its "adult" section on Monday, yielding to a campaign by state and federal government officials to close a service they contend promotes prostitution and human trafficking. The unexpected move came hours after a U.S. Senate subcommittee released a report accusing Backpage of actively editing posts on the site to remove evidence of child sex trafficking.

In announcing its decision, Backpage said it was the victim of government censorship. Backpage attorneys said executives would appear at a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, but would not testify.

U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill, however, said their subcommittee found Backpage had been far more complicit in sex trafficking than previously known. "Backpage's response wasn't to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site," they said in a statement. "That's not 'censorship' — it's validation of our findings."

On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from three sex trafficking victims accusing Backpage of facilitating the exploitation of children. The Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that said Backpage is shielded from liability by federal law since the site's classified ads are posted by users.

Also at Washington Post, NBC, and USA Today.

Previously: Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping"
"Pimping" Charges Against Backpage Executives Dismissed
California Attorney General Pursues New Charges Against Backpage CEO


Original Submission

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - 20 Years of Protecting Intermediaries 10 comments

The Recorder reports on efforts to weaken Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:

[...] §230 has proven to be one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet. In the past two decades, we've (EFF) filed well over 20 legal briefs in support of §230, probably more than on any other issue, in response to attempts to undermine or sneak around the statute. Thankfully, most of these attempts were unsuccessful.

[...] The first wave of attacks on §230's protections came from plaintiffs who tried to plead around §230 in an attempt to force intermediaries to take down online speech they didn't like.

[...] The second wave of attacks came from plaintiffs trying to deny §230 protection to ordinary users who reposted content authored by others

[...] Another wave of attacks, also in the mid-2000s, came as plaintiffs tried to use the Fair Housing Act to hold intermediaries responsible when users posted housing advertisements that violated the law.

[...] We are now squarely in the middle of a fourth wave of attack—efforts to hold intermediaries responsible for extremist or illegal online content. The goal, again, seems to be forcing intermediaries to actively screen users and censor speech. Many of these efforts are motivated by noble intentions, and the speech at issue is often horrible, but these efforts also risk devastating the Internet as we know it.

U.S. Congress Passes SESTA/FOSTA Law 73 comments

In Passing SESTA/FOSTA, Lawmakers Failed to Separate Their Good Intentions from Bad Law

The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let's be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.

The version of FOSTA that just passed the Senate combined an earlier version of FOSTA (what we call FOSTA 2.0) with the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). The history of SESTA/FOSTA—a bad bill that turned into a worse bill and then was rushed through votes in both houses of Congress—is a story about Congress' failure to see that its good intentions can result in bad law. It's a story of Congress' failure to listen to the constituents who'd be most affected by the laws it passed. It's also the story of some players in the tech sector choosing to settle for compromises and half-wins that will put ordinary people in danger.

[...] Throughout the SESTA/FOSTA debate, the bills' proponents provided little to no evidence that increased platform liability would do anything to reduce trafficking. On the other hand, the bills' opponents have presented a great deal of evidence that shutting down platforms where sexual services are advertised exposes trafficking victims to more danger.

Freedom Network USA—the largest national network of organizations working to reduce trafficking in their communities—spoke out early to express grave concerns [.pdf] that removing sexual ads from the Internet would also remove the best chance trafficking victims had of being found and helped by organizations like theirs as well as law enforcement agencies.


Original Submission

Craigslist Removes Personals Sections in the U.S. 67 comments

In response to the passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), Craigslist has removed Personals sections for U.S. users:

Classified advertising website Craigslist has closed its dating ads section in the US, in response to a new bill against sex trafficking.

The bill states that websites can now be punished for "facilitating" prostitution and sex trafficking.

Ads promoting prostitution and child sexual abuse have previously been posted in the "personals" section of Craigslist.

The company said keeping the section open in the US was too much of a risk.

In a statement, Craigslist said the new law would "subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully".

Reddit also took the opportunity to ban a number of subreddits (list not exhaustive), including some like /r/escorts, but many more broadly related to "transactions for goods and services".

Also at Ars Technica and The Verge.


Original Submission

"The Erotic Review" Blocks U.S. Visitors Due to SESTA 20 comments

A sex worker review website has blocked U.S. users in anticipation of the Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act (SESTA) coming into effect. U.S.-based users can still access it with a VPN, while all visitors are asked to "not access TER from a Prohibited Country":

A website that hosts customer reviews of sex workers has started blocking Internet users in the United States because of forthcoming changes in US law. Congress recently passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act bill (SESTA), and President Trump is expected to sign it into law. SESTA will make it easier to prosecute websites that host third-party content that promotes or facilitates prostitution, even in cases when the sex workers aren't victims of trafficking.

After Congress approved the bill, Craigslist removed its "Personals" section and Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits. The Erotic Review (TER) has followed suit by blocking any user who appears to be visiting the website from the United States. "As a result of this new law, TER has made the difficult decision to block access to the website from the United States until such time as the courts have enjoined enforcement of the law, the law has been repealed or amended, or TER has found a way to sufficiently address any legal concerns created by the new law," the website's home page says in a notice to anyone who accesses the site from a US location.

[...] SESTA was inspired largely by the existence of Backpage. But federal law enforcement authorities were able to shut Backpage down last week, even though SESTA hasn't been signed into law yet. Trump may sign the bill this week. [...] Some sex workers have spoken out against SESTA, saying that websites can help sex workers screen clients and avoid dangerous situations. A group called Survivors Against SESTA says the new law "will cause harm to vulnerable populations engaging in the sex trade without helping trafficking victims."

Previously: U.S. Congress Passes SESTA/FOSTA Law
Craigslist Removes Personals Sections in the U.S.
FBI Seizes backpage.com and Affiliates


Original Submission

Backpage CEO Takes Plea Deal, Will Testify Against Other Executives; President Signs FOSTA-SESTA 20 comments

Backpage's CEO Carl Ferrer took a plea deal one day before the site got shut down:

The CEO and co-founder of the classified ad website Backpage.com cut a plea deal with state and federal prosecutors, admitting that he knew that the site had become a massive online marketplace for prostitution. Carl Ferrer, 57, agreed to plead guilty to charges in state courts in Texas and California and federal charges in Arizona in a bid to resolve an array of criminal investigations he was facing over his role in the site. The plea deal appears to limit Ferrer's total potential prison time to no more than five years.

"I have long been aware that the vast majority of these advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services (which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and much of Nevada)," Ferrer acknowledged in a written statement that was part of the plea bargain.

During a lengthy Senate investigation, Ferrer and other Backpage officials insisted they were policing the website aggressively to remove such advertising. However, Ferrer admitted in the plea deal that those efforts were just window dressing. "I worked with my co-conspirators to create 'moderation' processes through which Backpage would remove terms and pictures that were particularly indicative of prostitution and then publish a revised version of the ad," he said in the plea document. "It was merely intended to create a veneer of deniability for Backpage."

The Washington Post reports that Ferrer agreed to testify against co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin.

The organizers of the Women's March have tweeted their opposition to the Backpage shutdown. Some conservatives are not amused, but sex workers have been critical of the shutdown and the passage of the SESTA law:

"Girls are going back to the streets and they are going to die in the streets, and nobody cares," said Calida, a mother of two, who said she used to do street work and fears she will have to start again to make ends meet. "Everybody is terrified."

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  • (Score: -1, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:25PM (32 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:25PM (#663752)

    This summary puts it in a positive light. But lets put it in less than glowing terms. There was human trafficking going on there. If it was just some people hooking up to get their swerv on no biggie. The FBI ended up there. Someone told them how the system works...

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bob_super on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:33PM (5 children)

      by bob_super (1357) on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:33PM (#663754)

      If you wanted to prevent robberies, and all the robbers regularly posted their contact info at the Robber Grill, would you close the place ?

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by requerdanos on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:25PM (3 children)

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:25PM (#663757) Journal

        If you wanted to prevent robberies, and all the robbers regularly posted their contact info at the Robber Grill, would you close the place?

        Hmm. Thinking about it, I guess I would just keep preventing the robberies as they were announced.

        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Arik on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:26PM (2 children)

          by Arik (4543) on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:26PM (#663781) Journal
          "I guess I would just keep preventing the robberies as they were announced"

          s/keep/start

          This is assuming the goal is to prevent crimes. Clearly that is not the case.

          So what is the goal then? Perhaps apprehending the criminals?

          That's more plausible, but it still doesn't fit. If that were the goal LE would be ecstatic to have sites like this in service, a constantly updated list of leads to work, right?

          Yet that does not seem to be the reaction either.

          So what is the real goal? It seems to be one that is familiar from history, a common theme from many times and place - simply to push it out of sight. We don't really want to free the slaves, we just don't want to have to see that they are slaves, perhaps.

          --
          If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday April 08 2018, @04:02AM

            by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday April 08 2018, @04:02AM (#663870) Homepage Journal

            For a while now the Portland Police Bureau was heavily into backpages.com so they could regularly supply a list of johns to The Oregonian.

            With backpages and craigslist being knocked out, it will be two or three days for their replacements to show up in the SERPS.

            --
            Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
          • (Score: 2) by wisnoskij on Tuesday April 10 2018, @01:11AM

            by wisnoskij (5149) <{jonathonwisnoski} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday April 10 2018, @01:11AM (#664762)

            The goal is to punish crimes, as that is the charge of law enforcement.

            they raided Backpage.com because it was a criminal enterprise that conducted many thousands to millions of crimes on an annual basis. Its very existence was a crime, I doubt that law enforcement even have the power to allow crimes to continue to be committed in perpetuity forever, simply because they benefit form said crimes.

      • (Score: 2) by edIII on Saturday April 07 2018, @08:08PM

        by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @08:08PM (#663789)

        That's the exact argument of why this will hurt trafficking victims. A treasure trove of intelligence for both law enforcement and NGOs alike.

        --
        Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Thexalon on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:39PM (23 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Saturday April 07 2018, @04:39PM (#663755)

      There was human trafficking going on there.

      Evidence needed. Prostitution does not always equal human trafficking.

      As far as I can tell from the evidence so far presented, what Backpage was doing was no more illegal than what escort services do.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 4, Informative) by requerdanos on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:36PM (1 child)

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:36PM (#663761) Journal

        Well, fortunately not a lot of effort is necessary [yandex.com] to find more evidence.

        "An advertisement on a website called Backpage, allegedly soliciting prostitution, led police to a young girl who was reported missing in North Carolina, according to a police report released on Thursday’s human trafficking arrests.", Backpage advertisement helps police find missing girl in human trafficking case https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/crime/article169775157.html [myrtlebeachonline.com]

        "The documents show that Backpage hired a company in the Philippines to lure advertisers — and customers seeking sex — from sites run by its competitors.", Backpage has always claimed it doesn’t control sex-related ads. New documents show otherwise., https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/backpage-has-always-claimed-it-doesnt-control-sex-related-ads-new-documents-show-otherwise/2017/07/10/b3158ef6-553c-11e7-b38e-35fd8e0c288f_story.html?utm_term=.483a9ed46a5e [washingtonpost.com]

        "A mother whose daughter was trafficked on Backpage at the age of 15 was among some of the women who have lost lawsuits against Backpage for trafficking and prostitution charges. Her daughter was trafficked on Backpage for nearly 3 months.", Backpage.com and Human Trafficking, http://www.frcblog.com/2017/07/backpagecom-and-human-trafficking-what-christian-americas-response/ [frcblog.com]

        "Dorchy was identified as a suspect and was traced to a motel room in Prince George’s County. Serving a search warrant on the room, police found Dorchy and three females, 17 to 24. Dorchy is suspected of forcing the women to perform sex acts for money after placing photos of them on the website Backpage", Md. man charged with human trafficking via Backpage; 4 victims freed, http://wjla.com/news/local/md-man-charged-with-human-trafficking-via-backpage-4-victims-freed [wjla.com]

        • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:41PM

          by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:41PM (#663763) Journal

          Well, fortunately not a lot of effort is necessary [broken yandex link] to find more evidence.

          But, it is apparently more trouble [yandex.com] than I initially thought.

      • (Score: 0, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:13PM (17 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:13PM (#663765)

        True prostitution doesn't always equal human trafficking, there are other horrible reasons why people engage in prostitution rather than be a legal, and possibly somewhat slutty, girlfriend. None of them are particularly good. Lack of access to decent paying jobs, extreme low self esteem due to sexual abuse, being LGBTQ and the image issues that can result from the hate speech.

        The whole happy hooker idea is something that's far less common than people like you suggest, assuming there are any at all. Being a prostitute isn't great and a significant portion of the client base are paying for sex for a reason.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:22PM (13 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:22PM (#663767)

          I don't care if there was actual sex trafficking going on there. Shutting down the entire website merely because of that is blatantly unconstitutional.

          The whole happy hooker idea is something that's far less common than people like you suggest, assuming there are any at all. Being a prostitute isn't great and a significant portion of the client base are paying for sex for a reason.

          The vast majority of jobs aren't great, but for some reason, many people only get angry when the job relates to sex. More nonsensical puritanism, perhaps?

          The main issue with prostitution is that it's currently illegal and unregulated, making the job worse than it would otherwise be. It's similar to drugs.

          • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:35PM (8 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:35PM (#663771)

            Most other jobs don't come with the risk of STIs and pregnancy that prostitution does. If you can't conceive of there being real social problems that come from prostitution that don't come from other jobs, then you're a great fool.

            There's also a non-sexual taboo when it comes to selling people's bodies. Most jobs that people do is an exchange of _time_ for money, when it comes to prostitution, it's more of an exchange of _body_ for money which is uncomfortably close to slavery and indentured servitude for most people.

            But, the biggest issue is just how challenging it is to tell the difference between a prostitute that's voluntarily working as a prostitute and somebody that's a sex slave. I don't think that most people paying for sex would do so if they thought the person was being forced to do so, but the reality tends to be that it's harder to tell the difference than what might imagine. We already have tons of problems figuring out which employers are breaking the employment laws we have due to the employees having to take massive risks when complaining. Do you really think that selling sex is going to be easier when most people won't admit if they're paying for sex?

            • (Score: 5, Insightful) by fyngyrz on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:43PM (5 children)

              by fyngyrz (6567) on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:43PM (#663782) Journal

              Most other jobs don't come with the risk of STIs and pregnancy that prostitution does.

              Plumbing comes with significantly increased risk of STDs and many non-STD diseases; steelworker comes with risks of falling off buildings; martial arts and football (to name only two) come with risks of brain damage and all manner of other serious injuries; etc., etc., etc. We use regulation and education to improve the level of informed consent in all of these pursuits. We don't do it with sex-as-a-service because the legislators and a fair number of their constituents are addled.

              Plumber is a particularly good example. People are willing to pay someone to dig through their shit-clogged toilets. But if risk is the excuse, they think that paying someone to fiddle with their junk or perhaps exchange (lower) body fluids is so much worse that they make it illegal. But then again if you're not paying, it's fine. Do you really think risk is a serious player in the reasoning here?

              When we start telling people what risks they can choose to take strictly on the basis of our knowledge that there are risks, we're screwing up. Badly.

              What we should be doing is trying to make as sure as possible that people are informed of risk so that they are making as-informed-as-practical choices, while seeing to it that they are not forced into the underground, unregulated, and far-more-dangerous economy for making those choices.

              There's also a non-sexual taboo when it comes to selling people's bodies.

              When we start forcing our taboos on other people, we're screwing up. There should be no right "not to be offended." I am incredibly offended when people inculcate their children with superstition. Should I be able to force them to not do so because it offends me? Of course not. They're your kids. You should be free to raise them the way you see fit, just as I am and do (did.)

              Selling people's bodies without their informed consent is a problem, and (obviously) should not be permitted, and should be punished harshly. But, back to plumbers, the person running the plumbing business sells "their" plumber's (meaning, those plumbers that person employs) services with their informed consent. They'll come right to the privacy of your home and dig right through your shit, and you'll pay through the nose for this type of risky service, just as you should. This is perfectly okay; and it should be okay. Likewise, if someone who is in a state of informed consent has their services sold to come to your home and meddle with your sacred little pee-pee, it should be perfectly fine.

              But, the biggest issue is just how challenging it is to tell the difference between a prostitute that's voluntarily working as a prostitute and somebody that's a sex slave.

              If prostitution were licensed and regulated (as it bloody well should be), then this would not be an issue at all. We would have above board licensed services to select from and those people would be highly unlikely to be under any form of duress any worse than anyone else who has to work to eat. The fact that it is illegal and has to operate below the surface of legality is what makes this a problem.

              • (Score: 4, Informative) by edIII on Saturday April 07 2018, @08:15PM (3 children)

                by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @08:15PM (#663791)

                If you want to see a licensed and regulated place in action, look no further than Pahrump, Nevada. There is reason why prostitution is relatively hard to find in Las Vegas, and certainly doesn't pay as well as the licensed and regulated places. Pahrump is like a 30 minute ride away from Las Vegas in a shuttle, which companies are operating.

                There's a whole show on HBO about how the place works. If we were really interested in learning about that environment, we have one to study.

                --
                Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
                • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @11:57PM (2 children)

                  by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @11:57PM (#663837)

                  The Wiki page on Nevada prostitution [wikipedia.org] seems to contradict what you're saying. I'm not sure what their methodology is for measuring a black market is; but illegal prostitution seems to be doing most of the business. It just makes common sense--if you're staying in Vegas are you going to cart your ass all the way out to the middle of no where, or are you going to suss out hookers *right there*. Also, it looks like the working conditions in the brothels are pretty draconian. From the hooker's PoV, hanging out in bars, doing "massage", etc. in Vegas and being independent is probably worth the risk vs. being caged up in one of those isolated sex shops.

                  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by fyngyrz on Sunday April 08 2018, @01:23AM (1 child)

                    by fyngyrz (6567) on Sunday April 08 2018, @01:23AM (#663842) Journal

                    The Wiki page on Nevada prostitution [wikipedia.org] seems to contradict what you're saying.

                    Nevada doesn't have prostitution. The boonies have prostitution, leaving the black market to the actual market, the cities.

                    if you're staying in Vegas are you going to cart your ass all the way out to the middle of no where, or are you going to suss out hookers *right there*.

                    Exactly.

                    It's a half-assed, dumb-shit way to go about it, and of course it doesn't work well.

              • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:36PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:36PM (#664014)

                Writing software comes with the risk of increased likelihood of heart-failure, obesity, hair-loss and arthritis.

            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:45PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:45PM (#663783)

              Most other jobs don't come with the risk of STIs and pregnancy that prostitution does.

              There are many legal jobs that involve a decently-high risk of death even after safety measures are implemented.

              If you can't conceive of there being real social problems that come from prostitution that don't come from other jobs, then you're a great fool.

              The social problems mainly stem from bigotry and irrationality. If prostitution were legal and regulated, many of these issues could be greatly reduced. This is what authoritarian fools don't seem to comprehend.

              Most jobs that people do is an exchange of _time_ for money

              And your body as well. You're not the one who decides what to do with that time. You have to complete specific tasks dictated by others. This involves using your body. But it doesn't matter because no sex is involved.

              when it comes to prostitution, it's more of an exchange of _body_ for money which is uncomfortably close to slavery and indentured servitude for most people.

              It can be indentured servitude or slavery if someone is forced to be a prostitute. Otherwise, no it's not. You don't get to call it those things just because sex is involved.

              But, the biggest issue is just how challenging it is to tell the difference between a prostitute that's voluntarily working as a prostitute and somebody that's a sex slave.

              That's once again mainly only an issue because it's illegal.

              We already have tons of problems figuring out which employers are breaking the employment laws we have due to the employees having to take massive risks when complaining.

              It's still less of a risk than having those jobs be on a black market where problems are solved with violence. I hope you don't fall victim to a nirvana fallacy.

            • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @03:12PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @03:12PM (#663955)

              You've only worked pussy jobs then. Consider yourself lucky and don't comment on the subject.

          • (Score: 0, Troll) by frojack on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:49PM (2 children)

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:49PM (#663774) Journal

            blatantly unconstitutional

            Seriously? Did you get in your black robe and bring your bailiff to make that ruling?

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:49PM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:49PM (#663786)

              Nope. I don't worship the government like you apparently do, and can therefore form opinions of my own. I don't see how taking down an entire website like this is anything but a violation of the first amendment.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @03:15PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @03:15PM (#663957)

                The constitution is part of the government and you worship it like a holy text even though you don't understand it.
                Somehow there are a lot of you.

          • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday April 08 2018, @04:05AM

            by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday April 08 2018, @04:05AM (#663871) Homepage Journal

            It's legal in Switzerland, the UK and Mexico.

            Back in the mid-60s, some Naval officers' wives went shopping in Tijuana. They were all arrested then forced to buy prostitution licenses.

            That's just the one instance of that that I know specifically about. I've always puzzled over whether my mother was one of those wives.

            --
            Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:47PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:47PM (#663773)

          The whole happy hooker idea is something that's far less common than people like you suggest, assuming there are any at all. Being a prostitute isn't great and a significant portion of the client base are paying for sex for a reason.

          Not all prostitution is street walkers and crack dens. There are plenty of escorts who make good money providing good company to wealthy individuals who value quality. I suspect that there are far more "happy hookers" than there are trafficked minors.

        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Sunday April 08 2018, @05:34PM (1 child)

          by Thexalon (636) on Sunday April 08 2018, @05:34PM (#664000)

          So by your same logic, nobody would willingly go into pornography, stripping, or anything else related to combining business and sex. And yet, they do: I know some folks who do those kinds of jobs, and they've at least never let on that they were particularly unhappy doing that job. For example, I was chatting with somebody at a party who works as a stripper, and she basically got into it because she likes dancing, she's completely comfortable being naked in front of people, it pays well, and there are far more jobs available for strippers than there are for professional dancers. And a friend-of-a-friend was a SuicideGirl for a while, and she apparently found the job fun and relatively easy money.

          What percentage of sex workers are doing so by choice versus by coercion is an open question, but it's known to be a non-zero number on both sides. Also, most of the people I've talked to that work in human trafficking prevention think that making prostitution itself illegal is counter-productive, because it gives victims of sex trafficking an incentive to avoid contact with the legal authorities that might be able to help them.

          --
          The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
          • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:40PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:40PM (#664017)

            Point in case - at almost the same time Sweden outlawed prostitution and Germany outlawed pimping. Guess which country saw a huge increase in women willing to sell sex?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @08:47PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @08:47PM (#663796)

        Evidence needed. Prostitution does not always equal human trafficking.

        True, but human trafficking always includes prostitution.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by JNCF on Sunday April 08 2018, @02:41AM

          by JNCF (4317) on Sunday April 08 2018, @02:41AM (#663852) Journal

          Incorrect. Human trafficking includes slave labor for non-sexual purposes. Modern example: [washingtonpost.com]

          “Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” said a salesman in camouflage gear. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @12:45AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @12:45AM (#666268)

        Turns out the people on backpage were doing the trafficking....

        https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/news/releases/backpage.com-pleads-guilty-to-human-trafficking-in-texas [texasattorneygeneral.gov]

        You wanted evidence. There you go. I seriously doubt the FBI 'just' heard about them...

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @07:01PM (#663776)

      hmm, is that like The Lawnmower Man [imdb.com]? how does that work exactly? they may have had postings from (ostensibly non-backpage) parties that advertised for possibly yet another party who *may*(unlikely) been forcing someone to have sex for money but that's not really the same thing now is it? just because police depts don't do shit about prostitution (except maybe take a cut)(not that they should be involved unless actual force is being used), now we have to have the kid killers/terrorist creators coming in and raiding website owners? and the braying jackasses trumpet their approval, as usual.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Sunday April 08 2018, @09:31PM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Sunday April 08 2018, @09:31PM (#664066) Homepage
      By pure coincidence, I'm watching the BBC's /Louis Theroux Dark States/ E02 /Trafficking Sex/, and backpage.com featured quite prominantly in the program. I'd never heard of it before, not that I would have had any reason to. Not one of his best documentaries, very few surprises, and not even gut-wrenchingly depressing, unlike some of his others. Still recommended (but E01 /Heroin Town/ was better, E03 is in the queue).
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 2) by BsAtHome on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:25PM (2 children)

    by BsAtHome (889) on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:25PM (#663758)

    So, when are they going after all the newspaper publishers that have been providing us with all those classifieds?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:15PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:15PM (#663766)

      This problem between the Feds and backpages.com has been going on for many, many years now. This wasn't something either party just found out about, the reason for the timing probably has something to do with that change in federal law as well as the new Attorney General probably wanting to do something that would make the President look good with a portion of his base.

      AFAIK, there aren't other media outlets that have been actively resisting this the way that backpages does, and those papers themselves are in a different legal category due to being journalistic organizations with 1st amendment protections for most of their activities.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @05:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @05:31AM (#663877)

        different legal category due to being journalistic organizations with 1st amendment protections

        You authoritarian-loving ass-kissing cocksucking bootlicker. You don't need a 'press licence' to have first amendment protection.
        The first amendment does not apply to journalists. It applies to everybody.

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:27PM (4 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:27PM (#663759) Journal

    Backpage has been around since 2004, and only now are they being busted? WTF?

    Enforcement actions against sexually oriented businesses generally increase as an election approaches. So long as there are large numbers of voters who are prudes, convinced that even mere soft porn is immoral, and that National Geographic has gone to the devil for occasionally showing native women who go about topless, and elected officials think smacking down sex could win lots more votes than it loses, they're going to lean on law enforcement to look tough on the issue. And law enforcement will respond, with officers who use these sexual services getting the word to chill for a bit and not embarrass the brass, before they execute a few raids and take downs.

    In this case, the enforcement action seems a little early. The big election is still just over half a year away. So perhaps there's another motivation behind the timing of this. Besides, why wasn't Backpage busted sooner? Had at least half a dozen big elections since it was founded. Could well be that it has to do with who is in power these days. Backpage maybe didn't get noticed in 2004 or 2006 because it was too new, then in 2008 the economy was tanking, and after that it wasn't until this election year that the social conservatives were the incumbents, and they want to get this done while they still have power.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by requerdanos on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:39PM

      by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:39PM (#663762) Journal

      Backpage has been around since 2004, and only now are they being busted? WTF?

      Three primary factors were involved.

      • The website was not named [something] pirate [something]
      • The website was not named [something] leaks [something]
      • None of the principals was named [something] dotcom [something]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @05:46PM (#663764)

      Jeff Sessions & Mike Pence got asked about ads there that were specific to their kinks?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:30PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07 2018, @06:30PM (#663769)

      Most likely the recent change in the law. Backpages.com and the Feds have been going at it for many years and the timing is probably just a matter of the fact that there's been a change in law that provided the prosecutors more power to do something about it.

      I'm not sure where people got the idea that this was somehow new or unexpected, they would have done this years ago if they had the power to do so.

  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday April 08 2018, @03:56AM (2 children)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday April 08 2018, @03:56AM (#663868) Homepage Journal

    I reported a few domains to the FBI I think three years ago, but those domains still serve CP, and CloudFlare still caches them.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:28AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:28AM (#663885)

      Does anyone else remember a few years back when a major Canadian child porn ring's ISP was busted, and the majority of the traffic to and from the site every day was from government IP addresses of about 30-40 major first world countries? The place was barely hiding at all, from what we know of 5 eyes metadata intelligence the first CP identified from it should have been enough to net all the traffic for as many years as was needed prior, and yet it took them years to finally shut it down.

      A few years after that a story was published detailing how dozens of major members of British Parliament had been taking part in sexual abuse of minors in orphanages for over 3 decades, having been protected from investigation or prosecution by MI5 who in turn was using knowledge of those activities to pressure the parliament members when budget time came around. In the end it was only disclosed after the last member of parliament documented in the scandal had died and none of the MI5 agents involved in the coverup were ever documented, tried, or convicted for their part in the coverup. At the same time multiple abused orphans killed themselves in the years leading up to it, as well as having other psychological problems caused by the abuse. The two individuals who kept at their investigations until the end, when it was finally published, one of them lost her job as a Social Worker, and the other, a police officer, was reassigned and told if he was ever caught investigating again he would be fired.

      That is justice for you, whether in Britain, America, Canada, or elsewhere. Sexual abuse will be tolerated when it is politically beneficial and will only be cracked down on to keep anyone from shining a light on the 'elites' own sexual proclivities.

      • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:38AM

        by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday April 08 2018, @06:38AM (#663889) Homepage Journal

        It was raided in 2005 after publishing several years of publishing monthly sets containing typically 3000 images of 4- to 16-year-old girls.

        Very few of the parents pressed charges.

        Those photos are everywhere now. It is really easy to find them in Bing Image Search. Say what you will about Google turning evil, at least they un-indexed all the domains that hosted those photos.

        Many of the sites that serve that particular line of pedophilia have domains that are under US control - mostly .com. Why doesn't ICE seize those domains too?

        They did seize some CP sites a few years ago but then stopped.

        FWIW I discussed my investigation with a Clark County (Vancouver) and a Multnomah County (Portland) deputy. They both said "Keep up the good work".

        However most of the domains are clearly throwaway sites. Those never last long, I expect because the proprietors only pay for one year of domain and get the hosting by hacking some poor bastard's server.

        --
        Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 2) by Subsentient on Sunday April 08 2018, @04:56AM (1 child)

    by Subsentient (1111) on Sunday April 08 2018, @04:56AM (#663875) Homepage Journal
    I'm not a fan of the new federal law that enabled this -- in fact, I revile it. It puts innocent people at risk of jail for the evil of their platforms' users. But, backpage is an exception. Yes, the traffickers will move to other venues, but backpage was well known, on the clearnet, available to everyone, and made it too easy. If you push this stuff into onionland, you're still making it harder for them to get business. That's a good thing. The less profitable we can make it, the better. I don't think prostitution is immoral or should be illegal, but with modern day prostitution comes a very high probability of human trafficking and other severe abuse, and if you don't know for sure that you're fucking a free range/organic prostitute, then it *becomes* immoral. I'm happy they're shut down. They deserved it sorely.
    --
    Trying is the first step towards failure. -The Click
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @05:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 08 2018, @05:35AM (#663878)

      How about the next time you're fucking a hooker, you ask her/him: "Are you here of your own free will? Would you like me to drive you to the police or a shelter?".

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