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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Jan 19th, 2017

THE SEX FILES: Where Are You Going To Connect Now?

Not that you ever go there I know, but as a nice gift for all of us to start the New Year, our government (even before Trump has gotten in) has removed the Adult Content section of Backpage.com. We all saw what happened to Craigslist’s Adult Advertising section after a time (although we all know where we can find those ads in CL if we look hard enough for them) and Yahoo abandoned their adult chat rooms a few years ago (although to be fair, the changes over at Yahoo could come as much from U.S. government pressure to how wacky things have been at Yahoo the past few years). So, what’s really going on here? Is this more government interference in the private space where porn/adult matters are concerned or something specifically pointed at Backpage? This past week, top execs from Backpage refused to testify at a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing. What’s been going on here, and what the Backpage owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin have been brought up on charges about, is claims that their online resource has been engaged in sex trafficking. Lacey and Larkin, plus two of their other officers simply offered the “After consultation with counsel, I decline to answer your question based on the rights provided by the First and the Fifth Amendments,” declaration when questioned this past week. In the meantime, the website’s adult section has been censored. The claims against Backpage is that certain employees (monitors) were to key in on words like  “Lolita,” and “cheerleader” in their adds, turning over the info of those adds to law enforcement. The criminal claim against Backpage is that the monitors instead edited those ads and simply put them in the adult services section. And with a supposed majority revenue of the site made by adult ads, you can see where suspicion comes in if indeed this ad editing constitutes some sort of pimping. Dr. Lois Lee, Founder and President, leading national hotline and shelter program for victims of sex trafficking Children of the Night (CotN is one of the links you will find if you were to go to any censored page of Backpage presently) gives an insight into an aspect of Backpage not many of us consider and what the Backpage monitoring was supposed to be about: “Backpage.com was a critical investigative tool depended on by America’s vice detectives and agents in the field to locate and recover missing children and to arrest and successfully prosecute the pimps who prostitute children. The ability to search for and track potentially exploited children on a website and have the website bend over backwards to help and cooperate with police the way Backpage did was totally unique. It not only made law enforcement’s job easier, it made them much more effective at rescuing kids and convicting pimps.” Then again, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says, “[t]he vast majority of prosecutions for sex trafficking now involve online advertising, and most of those advertisements appear on Backpage.” A California judge dismissed the pimping and pandering charges against Backpage just this past December, claiming the website is protected by the federal Communications Decency Act that allows free speech and gives the website operators “immunity for content posted by users.” But California officials refiled those charges in late December…and here we are. Are prosecutors coming down on Backpage unduly? Has add tampering actually occurred and could this be seen as prostitution, with providers both underage and over? Will Backpage undergo even more scrutiny after our new President takes office? What is certain, from what the website says, is that Backpage.com will continue to pursue its efforts in court to vindicate its First Amendment rights. Learn more here: http://www.backpage.com/classifieds/censored

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THE SEX FILES: Where Are You Going To Connect Now?