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Hearings to focus on release of jailed Backpage.com founders

12 April, 2018, 00:12 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Hearings to focus on release of jailed Backpage.com founders

As journalist Melissa Gira Grant pointed out on Twitter, the indictment overwhelmingly accuses Backpage of knowingly allowing ads related to prostitution in general, not children or victims of human trafficking.

The indictment Monday said it was implausible for Backpage.com to contend such ads were offering lawful escort services.

Among other claims, the report said that Backpage.com was editing the language on its site to strip out terms that were related to underage girls before the ads were posted in the adult section.

The UK edition had carried dozens of sex service ads at the time of its closure, according to Reuters.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was the lead Republican on a Senate investigation into Backpage called the action "overdue" and said it was good news for victims.

One charity said the move only partially addressed the problem.

After the Feds swooped on the Backpage.com website on Friday, they promised to outline why.

Prosecutors say the founders of the online classified advertising site Backpage.com should have to post bail, wear electronic monitors and detail their financial holdings if they want to be released from jail while facing dozens of counts of money laundering and facilitating prostitution. Lacey and Vaught made their first court appearance in a closed proceeding the day they were arrested, according to the newly unsealed case records.

No-one else at Backpage has provided comment.

Backpage's creators Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68, both of Paradise Valley, Arizona, face the charges along with five other defendants.

The new law also significantly weakens protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields websites from liability for what users might post.

Federal legislation was passed last month, called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), targeting operations like those at Backpage.

However, Newsweek points out that with Backpage's closing, sex traffickers will likely search for other avenues to exploit people, while making it harder for consenting sex workers to find work. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law this week.

Some sites have already taken counter-measures.

Digital rights advocates have, however, raised concerns, suggesting the new law will "hinder online freedom of expression".

The man said he when he was working at Backpage.com in 2008 and 2009, he was about 21 years old, and he said he was not fully aware of the human sex trafficking industry. But a letter provided to the committee before the hearing said the site and its employees "agree that human trafficking is abhorrent and should be eradicated" and that it "has spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars" working with law enforcement to fight trafficking.

The individuals are not being directly charged with commercial sex exploitation, but Backpage's involvement in facilitating prostitution was "no mistake" the official said, adding that the site turned a "blind eye" to sex trafficking that resulted from ads on the web pages.



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