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The Internet Advertising Government The Courts United States

FBI Seizes Backpage.com, a Site Criticized For Sex-Related Ads (reuters.com) 163

The FBI has reportedly seized the sex marketplace website Backpage.com, according to a posting on its website on Friday. "The posting said the U.S. Justice Department would provide more information at 6 p.m. EDT," reports Reuters. "It said U.S. attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department's section on child exploitation and obscenity and the California and Texas attorneys general had supported the work in shutting down the website." From the report: Lawmakers and enforcement officials have been working to crack down on the site, the second largest classified ad service in the country after Craigslist that is used primarily to sell sex. The U.S. Senate passed legislation last month making it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep sex trafficking and other exploitative materials off their platforms. The Supreme Court in January 2017 refused to consider reviving a lawsuit against backpage.com filed by three young women alleging the site facilitated their forced prostitution. But the site has since then faced a slew of other lawsuits alleging child sex trafficking. According to AZCentral, local FBI officials have confirmed "law enforcement activity" Friday morning at the Sedona-area home of Michael Lacey, a co-founder of Backpage.com. The raid comes amid what appears to be a shut-down of the website.
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FBI Seizes Backpage.com, a Site Criticized For Sex-Related Ads

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  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @05:26PM (#56395075) Journal
    Backpage had plenty of legitimate advertising, when does google and twitter and Facebook get shut down for the same reasons?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When they no longer feed their congress critters money.

    • To add to your point - this seizure is global, backpage and its affiliates (cracker etc) have a global presence, including in countries where prostitution is legal ( e.g. New Zealand), and now those sites, escort categories and *everything* else, are gone.

      People here on Slashdot constantly rail against EU laws being enacted globally, and here we have a US law being enacted in just that fashion.

      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        Nah, we complained about the Megaupload seizure, and about the TPP being shoved down other countries' throats. The situation with Assange looks pretty sketchy as well.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      'ER' not datamining like FBI datamining. Why seize Backpage, not so much what they did but their collection of data about what other people did. Even if they can not get the conviction to stick, they can still go on a fishing expedition through Backpage servers and find who did what with whom for direct prosecutions or FBI level extortions or to add to other investigations.

  • sex is bad (Score:4, Informative)

    by mSparks43 ( 757109 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @05:27PM (#56395081) Homepage Journal

    Americans need to learn sex is bad, if you have sex you will have babies, and no one wants americans to have babies.

    • i think no one wants humans to have babies anymore. full stop for at least 20 years, but this is one of those grey zones where the control freaks use one rotten adple to wrest and reinforce the chokehold, not that the rotten apple shouldnt be removed ofcourse but its still an excuse for them so basically if they had no excuse they wouldnt gain control this easily
  • Not signed yet (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2018 @05:30PM (#56395095)

    SESTA isn't in effect yet. It hasn't been signed into law yet.
    They've stated this siezure is the result of prior laws, they have been investigating this under already existing legislation for a while now.
    Which means SESTA wasn't even necessary to begin with.

    • Of course SESTA is necessary. You just don't understand the big picture.

      Making ISPs and web hosting companies responsible for all illegal human trafficking related content that travels across their systems is the first step. Afterwards, that responsibility will be expanded to included copyrighted materials so that the big media companies can bankrupt anyone who doesn't help them enforce whatever draconian copyright protection schemes they choose to impose.

      This is the goal. It has always been the goal. I

  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @05:32PM (#56395107) Journal
    "sex marketplace website"?? Really?? That's likes saying "Google, the pedophile search engine". Just because someone posted something inappropriate does not mean the entire website is devoted to only that.
    • by ccguy ( 1116865 )
      To be fair backpage had a explicit section called "erotic massage". So it's not like someone posting that kind of stuff in the wrong place.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There is nothing wrong with sex marketplaces to begin with.
      Now that Craigslist and backpage are both down, what will happen with all these horny North Americans? What to do, to have fun with some guns, to try some opiates? Sniff some glue?

      This is Prohibition version two. Just like version one, led by vaginoamericans.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This makes me uneasy at some level, just due to the nature of overreach. Nor does it necessarily deal with the root problem—those that seek to exploit children. Although I suppose it makes the "shopping" portion of that transaction harder.

    Also, I just had such a massive shart that I'm probably going to have to throw these pants away. Which sucks because they're my favorite jeans.

    • by BKX ( 5066 )

      If I had mod points, you'd get one lol

    • Re:Slippery Slope (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @06:29PM (#56395303)
      It doesn't make the "shopping" portion harder because LE is lying through it's teeth about there being child sex trafficking on Backpage. The reality is there were a few 16-17 year olds, voluntarily engaged-- even when nobody else is involved in any way, they're still labeled as 'trafficked', pretending to be over 18. In cases where police suspected that was the case, Backpage was very cooperative in helping to locate the individual, so this actually makes those 'children' less likely to be tracked down as the market is forced farther underground where no such cooperation will be forthcoming. It should make you uneasy at every level, not only because of the obscene overreach, but because absolutely no one is made safer by this, and a lot of people are made less safe.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Laws only get enforced when you piss off someone important.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Corrupt FBI won't investigate people threatening to shoot up kids in school, but they will spend all this effort on a "sex marketplace website". Not even sure why I'm surprised the FBI is so worthless.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because FREEDOM........

  • Sadomoralism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @06:12PM (#56395233)
    This is about punishing adult prostitution full stop. And it's going to make both providers and clients less safe (as every organization actually representing sex workers makes clear), and make it harder to track down the very small number of coerced women and slightly underage teenagers (they deliberately use language to make you think of actual children, not the 16-17 year olds doing it themselves, who are already legal for non-paid sex in 31 states, that make up 99.9999% of 'child sex trafficking victims' on backpage-- it's not that this is ok, but it's hardly the same as under 12 as the language implies), where Backpage was very helpful in assisting LE.
    But that's the point. To the right, selling sex is an immoral sin. To the left, any woman that chooses prostitution is suddenly without agency, and therefore being exploited, her opinion on it being irrelevant. Either way, it's not a decision that an adult should be free to make. So they punish these human moral failures by increasing suffering all around, all while grandstanding about how they're "saving" people when in fact they're doing the opposite. It's the same exact thing as the drug war. You take a dangerous activity that's conducted among consenting adults, prohibit it by force of law, and in doing so "send the message" that you stand against it and are fighting it, but you're actually greatly increasing the harm instead of decreasing it.
    It's called sadomoralism, and the left and right are both guilty of it, just with different justifications and trappings around the edges. No matter how many people you lock up, you're never going to stop it, and by going that route, you maximize the harm. But of course, regulating such things in a manner that actually reduces the harm means accepting that some people can then engage in the activity without being able to punish them for it-- and that's too high a price to pay no matter how devastating the alternative, whether it's hard drugs or prostitution, and whether you're talking about team (R) or team (D); because a utopia where drug abuse and prostitution vanish from the earth forever can always be achieved if we just refuse to give in and punish a little more.
    • Re:Sadomoralism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @06:16PM (#56395253)

      It's called Puritan authoritarianism. Long ingrained in US culture, coming from both religion (R) and secular (D) do-gooders.

      Frankly, the US would have been a better place if the Mayflower had hit rocks and turned the zealots it was carrying into fish food. Canada was settled by the British and French for profit instead of by Puritan refugees, and it's a much more tolerant place than the US.

      • You wrongly believe that the sex trade is Pretty Woman with a bunch of young women just doing what they do like any other 9-5 job. The reality is its pimp beatings and getting people hooked on drugs or brought to this country as a sex slave in some parlor or under ground brothel so they have no choice but to sell themselves for a few bucks to survive, whether under age or not.

        You can argue all that goes away if its just made legal. I don't know if it would or not, but that doesn't really matter as the FBI a

        • Wow, someone has listened to too much LE propaganda. There's a lot of drug abuse for sure, but 'pimp beatings' and sex slavery? You're delusional. That's a tiny, tiny minority. It turns out, most men aren't evil, and if they encountered an abused or imprisoned women when paying for sex, they're not going to ignore it. And even doubting prohibition isn't exacerbating the problems like that is even more deluded. Talk to any sex worker, Backpage et al. let them get away from people like pimps. Go beyond that,
          • Things like "talk to any sex worker" are all that needs to be said to make you the delusional one. I don't say all sex workers are equal and treated the same. Whether a majority or not I don't think anyone knows, but the numbers of people forced into the situation is high. I've seen it first hand. Pretty sure Lawrence Taylor found his under age prostitute via backpage.

            • How do you define slavery, coercion? One obvious component is a person NOT receiving the fruits of his or her labor. If he or she did get get the full compensation, there would be no motivation for someone coercing them to do the labor, what would they receive for so doing?

              Yet what the law criminalizes is not the labor (sex) but the compensation for it (money). To avoid these laws, a person MUST have someone else who takes the money and MUST give sex away 'free', and MUST have no legal recourse for getting

            • The answers of the people you're talking about are delusional, and your assessment of them is correct? Right. Just because *you* don't know doesn't mean other people don't either. The researchers who surveyed hundreds of sex workers, the groups working with the street level drug abusing ones (whom I know a number of personally)... they know. What you describe is fantasy. It's a tiny minority, and pretending otherwise is maintaining ignorance to promote propaganda. And it's harmful. People like you hurt this
        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          You wrongly believe that the sex trade is Pretty Woman with a bunch of young women just doing what they do like any other 9-5 job. The reality is its pimp beatings and getting people hooked on drugs or brought to this country as a sex slave in some parlor or under ground brothel so they have no choice but to sell themselves for a few bucks to survive, whether under age or not.

          No, that is what the puritanical laws of the US make the sex trade.

          Pimps can only operate because the trade is underground. Look at Amsterdam, prostitution is legal and most women are not forced into prostitution. Health services are available, Dutch police take violence very seriously. Even Colombia is evidence against your assertion. Again prostitution is legal and you get very few strung out girls on drugs.

          Most of the negative effects of the sex trade in the US are a direct result of sex workers be

      • Frankly, the US would have been a better place if the Mayflower had hit rocks and turned the zealots it was carrying into fish food. Canada was settled by the British and French for profit instead of by Puritan refugees, and it's a much more tolerant place than the US.

        And while we were getting the religious outcasts, Australia was getting the criminal ones. The relative outcomes probably says something profound.

        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          Australia only began getting the criminals when America and England had a falling out and England could no longer send their prisoners to the penal colonies in America. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          The British used colonial North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Merchants would transport the convicts and auction them off (for example) to plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They don't even care about prostitution, half of them are regular customers. It's really the reverse Larry Flynt logic--"If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it'll protect all of you"-- so they go after the scumbags to get to everyone else. Untaxed labor, unmonitored gatherings, unauthorized communication, that's what they really find obscene.
    • Time for someone to set up a hidden service marketplace for consensual adult sex work, and for sex workers and their clients to learn about Tor
    • Hardly. It's not about prostitution at all. Do you think the pussygrabber-in-chief wants to end prostitution? How else would he ever get laid, but for paying? This case was nothing more than an end-run attack against the protections of service providers from liability for end-user content under section 230 the CDA... a hedging of their bets in case SESTA failed to pass. They want to be able to put the screws to tech companies, an force them to aid in their agenda of chipping away at free speech and pri

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A lot has been said about the Puritanism of this.

    Some might be interested in knowing that the co-founders of Backpage were previously arrested and charged years back for printing the home address of Sherriff Joe Arpiao of Arizona. Yes, THAT Arpaio. At the time, this information was already public.

    The Sherriff's arrest for which he and fellow New Times [phoenixnewtimes.com] founder received awarded 3.75 million dollars [phoenixnewtimes.com].

    Make of this info what you will.

  • Brilliant idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gatfirls ( 1315141 ) on Friday April 06, 2018 @07:17PM (#56395511)

    "Hey FBI, here's this website that is like a honey pot for sickos so you can easily identify them and weed them out!"

    FBI: "No thanks, shut it down. We'd rather only find out about horrible exploitation after it has gone on for years and the victim finally gets away."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A quick Google reveals at least five alternatives to BackPage.com ... What does the FBI really think it's accomplishing except driving these sites further underground and out of their reach?

  • Trump is not that bad after all.

  • Without Craigslist, how much crap will end up in landfills instead of transferring between homes? I would sue the federal government over this just for the environmental harm they are causing.

  • Banning toilets around America, because "your mom" has been offering her services via phone number there for the past 40 years.

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