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Thread: CEO of Backpage arrested for pimping

  1. #1

    CEO of Backpage arrested for pimping

    Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com, has been arrested on felony human trafficking charges that include pimping, pimping of a minor, and conspiracy to commit pimping.

    According to prosecutors, Backpage designed the "adult services" section to operate as the world's biggest online brothel, bringing in millions from escort ads that sometimes involved children.

    "Backpage.com seems to have knowingly and willingly allowed women and children to be exploited in return for its own financial gain," said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

    The news story here:
    http://www.chron.com/news/houston-te...an-9884677.php

  2. #2
    A poor corrupt official CaptRenault's Avatar
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    I think Ferrer and Backpage will fight this charge all the way to the Supreme Court. If the government can get away with charging the BP CEO with pimping then it will usher in a new era of censorship of the Internet. The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and other Internet sites could be subject to similar government intimidation. I think this case will be a long drawn out battle over First Amendment issues. However in the short run the arrest may have the effect of shutting down Backpage, which is the real goal of the politicians who brought the charges.

    These issues have been discussed at reason.com:

    Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer Arrested in Texas for Pimping, Conspiracy
    The charges stem not from Ferrer's own actions but because he owned a user-generated ad website where these activities are said to take place.
    Elizabeth Nolan Brown|Oct. 6, 2016 9:00 pm

    ...And like Craigslist—and Facebook, and Twitter, and every newspaper with a comment section—Backpage is protected by Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. It says that user-generated content sites cannot be held strictly liable for things members or users post. Without Section 230, Twitter could be taken down over terrorism threats from anonymous ISIS members, Facebook could be destroyed because some users have been found to solicit sex from underage individuals in its messaging section, Reason could be liable for anything its commenters post, and Craigslist could be killed over someone selling a stolen TV there.

    But but but... the children! The children are actually being harmed by actions like Ferrer's arrest. I've written extensively about Backpage over the past few years, as well as about U.S. sex-trafficking investigations. While Backpage doesn't screen all its ads, it does employ people to monitor the adult section. And any ads suspected of containing anyone under 18 are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Countless investigations into child sex-trafficking in the U.S. have been solved with Backpage's help, as investigators all over the country have openly attested.

    Political opponents of the site like to imagine that without it, sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors would simply cease. But the closure of sites like Backpage , where ads for adult sex workers and adults selling totally non-sex related things far outnumber any ads for illegal activity, wind up sending both independent sex workers and sexual exploiters to more underground venues or out onto the streets—places where there's no paper trail and no one screening anything or reporting any suspicious activity to the government.


    Another Win for Internet Freedom, First Amendment in First Circuit's Backpage Ruling
    "Congress did not sound an uncertain trumpet when it...chose to enact broad protections to internet publishers," held the appeals court.
    Elizabeth Nolan Brown|Mar. 21, 2016
    reason.com

    Good news for folks who care about Internet freedom and the First Amendment: a federal appeals court just affirmed that classified-advertising sites aren't generally liable for content posted by users. The case stems from a civil lawsuit filed against Backpage.com by three women who said they were forced into prostitution and that perpetrators had advertised their services on Backpage. The plaintiffs said this makes Backpage complicit in their abuse and sought damages from the company.

    They had no luck with this argument in a district court, which ruled against them. "The existence of an escorts section in a classified ad service, whatever its social merits, is not illegal," wrote Judge Rihard Sterns in his decision. By merely providing a platform for these ads, Backpage's actions "amount to neither affirmative participation in an illegal venture nor active web content creation," and therefore fail to forfeit the benefits provided by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996.

    Under Section 230 of the CDA, "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." In effect, this means that "online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do," according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (For more on why section 230 is so valuable, see here.)...
    Strasser: You see, Captain, the situation is not as much under control as you believe.
    Renault: My dear Major, we are trying to cooperate with your government, but we cannot regulate the feelings of our people.
    Strasser: Captain Renault, are you entirely certain which side you're on?
    Renault: I have no conviction, if that's what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.

  3. #3
    Is Backpage worth fighting for?

    One argument is the domino theory. If it falls, a lot of precedent is set and politicians and law enforcement are emboldened to go after the consensual sex work sites that most johns in the U.S. use.

    On the other hand, Backpage is an embarrassing cesspool that likely does have some underaged providers, sex trafficking by pimps, druggies, and lord knows plenty of cops posing as providers. Would the U.S. be better without it? Having a website or advertising through a review site adds some professionalism for the providers and the self-policing of the review boards helps keep the scum away.

    Would most merb guys be okay if Canadian law enforcement eliminated backpage and announce 123, but left merb and its advertisers completely alone? I would be fine if Backpage got eliminated in the U.S. as long as TER and "TER ladies" were unaffected.

  4. #4
    Veteran of Misadventures EagerBeaver's Avatar
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    The problem is that this is where the lower end providers and lower end clients mostly go and if there is no BP, they have no place to go. To a certain extent it is a cesspool, and it has to be waded through very carefully, but I have found some very good and even higher end providers on Backpage.

    Is Backpage worth fighting for? I would agree that it is worth fighting for on the basis of the domino theory. What law exists that protects what is above them, also protects them, or it protects nothing at all.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patron View Post
    Is Backpage worth fighting for?

    One argument is the domino theory. If it falls, a lot of precedent is set and politicians and law enforcement are emboldened to go after the consensual sex work sites that most johns in the U.S. use.

    On the other hand, Backpage is an embarrassing cesspool that likely does have some underaged providers, sex trafficking by pimps, druggies, and lord knows plenty of cops posing as providers. Would the U.S. be better without it? Having a website or advertising through a review site adds some professionalism for the providers and the self-policing of the review boards helps keep the scum away.

    Would most merb guys be okay if Canadian law enforcement eliminated backpage and announce 123, but left merb and its advertisers completely alone? I would be fine if Backpage got eliminated in the U.S. as long as TER and "TER ladies" were unaffected.
    If you think either the Canadian or US morals police would shut down backpage and then leave MERB alone you are incredibly niaive. When they went after craigslist, they said they were singling the site out because it was the worst offender. There will always be a "worst offender" and they will never stop unless the courts stop them.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by luvdozer View Post
    If you think either the Canadian or US morals police would shut down backpage and then leave MERB alone you are incredibly niaive. When they went after craigslist, they said they were singling the site out because it was the worst offender. There will always be a "worst offender" and they will never stop unless the courts stop them.
    You may be correct, but it is awkward for the Great Fights to be waged in situations involving teenagers whose older boyfriends and sometimes older family members took out the ads and kept most of the money. The abolitionists find what the evidence they want to wave around to the uninformed middle class on BackPage, and it makes them tend to agree with the abolitionists. I would rather those Great Fights be waged against some upper-end provider because of the greater chance the government would never bring the case or would lose. If the same laws protect BackPage and TER, a loss by BackPage is a loss to TER, even though the same judge or jury would rule differently if the provider earns a damn good living and clearly chose to be a sex worker. I have long secretly wished that BackPage simply didn't exist. It rubs low-end prostitution in the noses of people who would be content to ignore prostitution if it were conducted the way it is on TER and merb.

  7. #7
    A poor corrupt official CaptRenault's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EagerBeaver View Post
    ...Is Backpage worth fighting for? I would agree that it is worth fighting for on the basis of the domino theory. What law exists that protects what is above them, also protects them, or it protects nothing at all.
    Well said--I agree wholeheartedly, EB. The anti-prostitution zealots that have brought these charges are trying to pick off the easy targets first. Once they do that, they will not stop.

    They have already killed off advertising by sex workers in the yellow pages, Craigslist and the actual back pages of print publications. It is naive to think that they will stop after killing off Backpage. They will go after sites like TER, P411, ECCIE and Utopia Guide. They already killed off a few such sites, such as The Review Board in Seattle and the Redbook in northern California and Vegas. In Canada, print papers such as Le Journal de Montreal used to have lots of escort ads, but not any more. MERB had to move its servers offshore to protect itself.

    The clearly stated goal of anti-prostitution zealots is to end all prostitution forever. They are fanatics and they will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. Moreover they represent the combined power of legislators, prosecutors, the police, right-wing Christians and radical feminists. After they shut down ad and review boards they will go after the individual websites of escort agencies, individual escorts and advertising coops like Indy Companions.

    As Salman Rushdie said, "One of the problems of defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting."
    Strasser: You see, Captain, the situation is not as much under control as you believe.
    Renault: My dear Major, we are trying to cooperate with your government, but we cannot regulate the feelings of our people.
    Strasser: Captain Renault, are you entirely certain which side you're on?
    Renault: I have no conviction, if that's what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptRenault View Post
    After they shut down ad and review boards they will go after the individual websites of escort agencies, individual escorts and advertising coops like Indy Companions.
    What we could see more and more in response, is a movement of boards and advertising sites from the surface web to the deep web or even the darknet.

  9. #9
    A poor corrupt official CaptRenault's Avatar
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    Reaons's Elizabeth Nolan Brown explains how ridiculous it is to charge BP CEO Ferrer with the pimping of a minor:

    Here's How Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer Supposedly Profited From Child Sex Trafficking
    Behold, 12 things the state of California considers sex trafficking that are totally not

    Elizabeth Nolan Brown|Oct. 7, 2016 11:45 am
    reason.com

    The head of Backpage.com, the world's second-largest online classifieds site, was arrested in Texas yesterday under a California warrant for pimping, conspiracy, pimping of a minor, and attempted pimping of a minor. Here's the paperwork filed by California Department of Justice Special Agent Brian Fichtner in support of Ferrer's arrest. The government asserts that Ferrer and Backpage intentionally profited off of child sex-trafficking.

    Their "evidence"? It's... insane. I don't know how else to describe it other than that. Throughout the complaint, Fichtner uses instances of Backpage cooperating with law-enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in identifying and finding potential victims as evidence that Backpage profits off of exploitation. Backpage is literally rejecting—and turning over to the government—ads that may promote sex trafficking, and the government says, see! proof that sex traffickers love Backpage! Shut it down! It's like a building owner reporting predatory activity out front and the cops arresting him and tearing up the street corner instead of tracking down the predator.

    It also gives lie to the idea that this crusade against Backpage is about stopping the sexual exploitation of children and not eradicating online ads for sexual-services entirely. First, officials went after the "adult services" section on Craigslist. Then they took down sex-ad forum MyRedbook.com, the gay prostitution site Rentboy.com, and escort review forum The Review Board. Next up: Backpage. It's simply the latest target in the U.S. government's quixotic and cruel aim to make sex-work as hidden (and dangerous) as possible.

    Below, check out the lame logic California offers to justify portraying Ferrer as a sex trafficker and charge him with pimping children [refer to the article to see the section of the warrant to which ENB refers].

    1. Adults advertising legal sexual services on Backpage (such as sensual body rubs) may actually be peddling sex.

    As Craigslist shows, if you give people a place to post classified ads, many will be for prostitution. The government likes to crow about how it got Craigslist to take down its "Adult Services" section, but take one look at sections for dating and "casual encounters" and you'll see the sex trade is still totally alive and well on Craigslist. The presence or absence of a heading marked "adult" or "escort" ultimately makes little difference—heck, there are plenty of people offering sex on Twitter every day. It's absurd to expect websites to intuit the real motives of every user who posts, or try to somehow screen out people offering legal pay-to-play erotic activity from those who will tack on a hand-job at the end of a massage or have sex with a client after flogging him.

    2. Adults explicitly advertising sexual services for a fee on Backpage are indeed offering sexual services for a fee.

    For the record, Backpage runs hundreds of thousands of user-generated ads every day. It does not, cannot possibly, and does not claim to look at all of them before they go up, which is why it relies on automated screening processes that flag potentially suspicious ads, with these flagged ads then reviewed by actual humans. Trying to prevent people from offering illegal services (like prostitution) through such screening processes is all Backpage can realistically do, short of not existing. And it should be enough to protect it from criminal liability under federal law. Like other user-generated content and social media sites—from Craigslist to Reddit to Facebook—Backpage is theoretically shielded from liability for things users post by Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act.

    3. Sex sells better than old sofas.

    Somehow this is Ferrer's fault.

    4. Backpage removed an ad suspected of offering prostitution when it was reported and then blocked it from being re-posted.

    It is unclear how quickly removing ads for illegal activity when notified and preventing ads for illegal activity from being re-published somehow constitutes the promotion of illegal activity.

    5. Backpage uses automated filtering to try and prevent people from posting about illegal activity.

    Ban all homonyms!

    6. Sometimes minors are advertised on Backpage, and this helps the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and local law enforcement to find them.

    t's important to note that "suspected" here means NCMEC actually has no idea. The agency screens ads all around the country and reports those with potentially underage individuals in them to state law enforcement agencies. But there's not much difference, looks wise, between a 17-year-old "child" and a 19-year-old adult, so it's largely guess work. NCMEC has also monitored and flagged ads with words or phrases allegedly signaling someone underage, but these phrases (like "barely legal") are also used frequently for marketing purposes by sex-workers over 18.

    Out of all of the suspected instances reported—and if there were 2,900 in California alone, it's got to be a big number—only 400 actual investigations were launched over a four-year period, suggesting much of the ad-sharing NCMEC does is out of an abundance of caution.

    Regardless: how is it a bad thing that NCMEC can monitor Backpage for potential exploitation? That's certainly something it couldn't do if prostitution ads were further dispersed all over the Internet or these teens were selling sex from bars and street corners. In the minority of cases where NCMEC turns out to be correct about minors engaging in prostitution, it's Backpage that provides a paper trail allowing law enforcement to track them down, along with any potential predators.

    7. Backpage helps law-enforcement with juvenile sex-trafficking investigations.

    "Backpage acknowledges that pimps routinely pay Backpage for ads trafficking children for sex," Fichtner states. And how does he back up this outrageous claim? By stating that Backpage has cooperated with law-enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in sex trafficking investigations—which does not really sound like an "acknowledgment" of wrongdoing from Backpage at all. Still, Fichtner offers no further evidence to support either the claim that "pimps routinely pay Backpage for ads trafficking children for sex" or that Backpage acknowledges any such thing.

    8. An adult woman detained for prostitution in a DOJ sting on Backpage admitted to advertising on Backpage.

    9. Sex-trafficking victims sometimes flee pimps and start working for themselves by posting ads on Backpage.

    10. An older man in a relationship with a 15-year-old advertised her for prostitution on Backpage, which allowed law enforcement to find her and arrest the man.

    Hmmm, under our new logic of online liability, shouldn't the website where the 32-year-old first picked up the 15-year-old be found guilty of statutory rape?

    11. Backpage derived 99 percent of revenue from adult ads during a time when the only ads it charged for were adult ads.

    12. Adult women can make a lot of money independently selling sex on Backpage


    Strasser: You see, Captain, the situation is not as much under control as you believe.
    Renault: My dear Major, we are trying to cooperate with your government, but we cannot regulate the feelings of our people.
    Strasser: Captain Renault, are you entirely certain which side you're on?
    Renault: I have no conviction, if that's what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.

  10. #10
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    Rentboy.com CEO Pleads Guilty to Promoting Prostitution

    Hello all



    The chief executive officer of a once-popular male escort website pleaded guilty on Friday to promoting prostitution in a federal case that prompted accusations of anti-gay bias.

    Jeffrey Hurant admitted in federal court in Brooklyn that he broke the law by promoting "the exchange of sexual conduct in return for a fee" on his Rentboy.com site.

    Under a plea deal, Hurant agreed not to appeal a sentence of two years or less in prison. His company also cannot appeal a penalty of $10 million or less. Sentencing guidelines call for a maximum sentence of 21 months.

    Hurant, 51, and his attorney left court without speaking to reporters. Sentencing was set for Feb. 2.

    Prosecutors had alleged that Rentboy was the equivalent of an online brothel, and what the site called escorts were actually prostitutes. They said part of the proof were in the explicit ads that featured nude photos, listings of all manner of physical attributes and pricing options ranging from $150 an hour to $3,500 for a weekend.

    The takedown of the website was led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Its involvement, along with an absence of any allegations that Rentboy was a menace to society beyond simple prostitution — like engaging in human trafficking or exploiting minors — stirred anger and fear in the gay community. Activists questioned why the agency would single out Rentboy when other escort websites, gay or straight, continue to do business.

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which participated in the investigation along with the New York Police Department and other agencies, issued a statement saying "any insinuation that a specific population was targeted is categorically false."

    Before authorities arrested Hurant and seized the Rentboy site, it had thousands of advertisers paying up to $300 a month, 500,000 visitors a day and revenues of $10 million in the past five years.

    The business hosted parties and an annual awards show for escorts called the Hookies. In interviews, Hurant insisted "there is no place on this website where somebody says I'll have sex for money because that is against the law," but also boasted about wanting "to keep the oldest profession in the world up to date with all the latest technology.
    "
    THERE'S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE!!!!!!! P.T.BARNUM ?????????

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patron View Post
    The abolitionists find what the evidence they want to wave around to the uninformed middle class on BackPage, and it makes them tend to agree with the abolitionists. ... It rubs low-end prostitution in the noses of people who would be content to ignore prostitution if it were conducted the way it is on TER and merb.
    People in low-end prostitution also need to make a living and they're the ones who need sites like Backpage. It's safer than working on the street. Cases of actual exploitation on Backpage were usually found thanks to Backpage. Because something happens on Backpage doesn't mean it's caused by Backpage. Abolitionists will always find their horror stories somewhere; there was plenty of those before the internet.
    “Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love.”

  12. #12
    If this guy wins the case, they will be opening up a new can of worms.

  13. #13
    A poor corrupt official CaptRenault's Avatar
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    Escort blogger Maggie McNeill responds to the arrest of the Backpage owners. Give 'em hell, Maggie!

    https://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/power-play/

    For the past five years, pompous politicians have repeatedly attempted to bully and threaten Backpage into removing its designated escort ad section in the same way they terrorized Craigslist into doing it, and like all bullies they’ve grown increasingly crimson-faced and apoplectic as the Backpage has not only ignored their toothless threats, but beaten them at every turn in court. The reason this has happened is that career politicians are narcissistic sociopaths who can’t grasp when they’re in the wrong and are no more capable of rethinking their tactics than a tribe of rather slow-witted gibbons might be; because Craigslist backed down after a bit of posturing and saber-rattling, naturally the politicians assumed the same schoolyard tactics would work on Backpage...

    ...Time after time after time after time after time, judges have slapped down attempts to hold Backpage liable for the content of its ads, and for good reason: if publishers (whether traditional or electronic) were responsible for third-party content, nobody would dare risk hosting such content (from newspaper ads to WordPress blogs) for fear of being sued out of existence. But neither common sense nor the common good ever stopped a politician, so last week Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California (who is running for US Senate) conspired with the attorney general of Texas to commit the blatant crime of falsely arresting Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. Though the headline writer is a slackjawed moron who uses the phrase “sex trafficking” to mean “sex work”, the author of this article agrees with my analysis:

    It takes a lot to turn a publisher of sex ads into a First Amendment hero. But the attorney general of California has managed the feat. By charging Carl Ferrer…with pimping and sex trafficking in minors, Kamala Harris has seriously breached the constitutional wall meant to protect the free press. Ferrer — and the two controlling shareholders of the online classified marketplace Backpage — aren’t charged with actually arranging sex for pay. They’ve been criminally charged based on a claim that Backpage is designed to, and does, publish third-party ads for sex trafficking. On this theory, essentially any publication that sells ads could be outlawed — and that’s almost any publication on earth…
    Strasser: You see, Captain, the situation is not as much under control as you believe.
    Renault: My dear Major, we are trying to cooperate with your government, but we cannot regulate the feelings of our people.
    Strasser: Captain Renault, are you entirely certain which side you're on?
    Renault: I have no conviction, if that's what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.

  14. #14
    Oh, Murica'.

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