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posted by janrinok on Sunday October 09 2016, @01:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the now-prove-it dept.

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."


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  • (Score: 3, Touché) by Justin Case on Sunday October 09 2016, @06:43PM

    by Justin Case (4239) on Sunday October 09 2016, @06:43PM (#412151) Journal

    I know the political correctness running amok elevates victims to the highest levels of exaltation, but this is absurd:

    victims who confirmed they paid Backpage to post ads

    We now have people paying so that they can become victims???!!

    Starting Score:    1  point
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10 2016, @02:49AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10 2016, @02:49AM (#412280)

    The cyberpimp made them do it.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10 2016, @08:10AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10 2016, @08:10AM (#412345)
    Yeah just like all those "trafficked victims" who paid money to agents so they could get work sucking dicks for the about same amount of money per day they would get in a month working in a sweatshop back in their home country.

    And when they get caught and deported, they often try to do the same thing again and again. Amazing huh? I suppose most dicks don't taste as bad as the taste of poverty. Maybe if you've tasted their poverty enough you might agree with them. They are victims alright. Victims of being born in some crappy country, often victims of useless/abusive ex-husbands. It's not really the pimp or customer forcing them to suck dicks (personally I find the idea of having my dick sucked rather disgusting but somehow it seems popular with many guys, I doubt most girls like it - since girls on average seem to get disgusted more easily than guys ).

    I hope those trying to save these women really have good alternatives lined up for them, and aren't just pretending to help. Seems many of these "Defenders" are merely a different bunch using these women, with the difference these women don't get paid for being used by such "Defenders".