Backpage & Tech Companies Promote Sex Trafficking
The Internet certainly has a dark side to it, and the website Backpage.com is front and center.
Backpage.com has been aggressively soliciting and creating sex-related ads for prostitution which promotes the sex trafficking of minors.
Recent media reports point to Backpage using a contractor to lure advertisers and customers seeking sex from competing sites. Which in turn could help the anti-trafficking groups and Congress crack down on Backpage, which has thumbed its nose at Washington and federal prosecutors.
In the documentary film I am Jane Doe – about mothers here who wage a battle against sex trafficking on behalf of their daughters, US Sen. John McCain said it was the first time he experienced when a witness refused to attend a Senate subcommittee hearing on the issue after they asked the company’s CEO to testify.
How can this be when mothers have found their teenage daughters being bought and sold on this web site?
That is because Backpage has the back of top tech companies like Google and Facebook. Those companies have lobbied heavily to prevent Congress from changing the 1996 Communications Decency Act which protects all third parties such as Internet Service Providers from what others post on their web sites.
As a result, sex trafficking is a growing business thanks to the explosive growth of the Internet and the tech companies that now control Congress via its heavy lobbying and campaign spending on behalf of free speech.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Backpage to stop accepting ads that promote the sex trafficking of minors, and almost every judge has upheld Backpage’s rights because it qualifies as a passive platform for third-party content under the US Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Backpage’s persistent hosting of prostitution ads – which include postings of underage girls and boys – have been linked to a slew of gruesome murders in the US and overseas.
In a Senate subcommittee report earlier this year the company claimed it used a program to remove illegal ads and objectionable words from ads, such as ‘lolita’ and ‘teenage’ and ‘rape.’ However, human rights organizations say Backpage allows those who pay for the ads soliciting prostitution to use substitute words.
Another example of Backpage’s laughing off Washington’s threats is when it put a red banner headline over its adult listings with the word ‘Censored’ and released a statement that they had removed the adult section because of ‘unconstitutional government censorship.’ However, Backpage sex ads just moved to the dating section of the site, according to the NY Post.
The owners of Backpage – Michale Lacey and James Larkin – bought the Village Voice in NY and discovered that the real money to be made today in the media business was its online classified section. More than 93 percent of its ad revenue in 2011 came from its adult section, which include postings for sex with underage girls and boys, according to the Senate report. Backpage’s revenue in 2014 was $135 million and is projected to be $250 million by 2019.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 73 percent of the 10,000 child trafficking reports it receives annually involve Backpage in some way.
The Washington Post wrote an editorial recently in which they noted that Congress will have to decide whether to amend the Decency Act which gives third-party hosts such as Backpage immunity for content posted by its users. “This immunity has been vital to the development of free speech on the Internet, but can also provide a loophole for companies that tacitly facilitate human trafficking.”
What the editorial didn’t mention is that holding Backpage responsible for sex trafficking will depend on Google and Facebook – who decide what laws get passed or amended in today’s Internet world.