Saturday, June 3, 2017

Online markets for prostitutes, including children are difficult to abolish

Illegal markets are hard to close down, and that goes double for advertisements for illegal markets, in which free speech issues and third-party issues ('we just post ads, we don't vouch for the advertisers') may also be in play.

In this regard, see some of my earlier posts about the website Backpage, which is in various sorts of legal battles.

Some followups:

In the Washington Post: A movie about online sex-trafficking might actually get laws changed

"It’s tough getting a consensus on anything these days, but child sex abuse and human trafficking are generally considered indefensible crimes. So who’s defending them?

According to “I Am Jane Doe,” that would be Google. And Microsoft. And Facebook. And Yahoo.

Directed by Mary Mazzio (“Lemonade Stories,” “Underwater Dreams”) and coming to Netflix May 26 after a theatrical run earlier this year, the documentary advocates for victims of online trafficking while taking principal aim at the classified-ad website, a notorious venue for sex ads and transactions, many involving children. In its indictment of and the tech companies that are indirectly supporting the website, the film may also give a public relations boost to members of Congress working to tighten laws surrounding Internet liability.

According to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, online service providers cannot be held liable for third-party content. But that means if someone sells a 13-year-old on its pages, Backpage says, it isn’t responsible. And so far, court after court has agreed — to the relief of First Amendment absolutists, and the Silicon Valley companies mentioned above, which support, financially, organizations defending Backpage’s position.

Backpage was once part of Village Voice Media and is now owned by a Dutch firm, although founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin and chief executive Carl Ferrer have been named in the suits. “I Am Jane Doe” picks up the Backpage saga in 2010 with lawsuits filed by girls who were trafficked on its pages, and continues through a Senate subcommittee investigation led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in January, as well as criminal charges of pimping and money laundering brought by then-California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, now a Democratic senator. It also focuses on the effort that has thus far made the most headway — a civil suit that continues in Washington state, piloted by lawyer Erik Bauer. Backpage will try to get that case dismissed during a summary judgment hearing Wednesday. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 9.

In the meantime, the closing of Backpage's "adult" ads section hasn't shut down other ads:

Fox News: Prostitution still thrives on Backpage despite site shutdown of 'adult' section

The NY Times : Backpage’s Sex Ads Are Gone. Child Trafficking? Hardly.

"In the midst of a Senate investigation, a federal grand jury inquiry in Arizona, two federal lawsuits and criminal charges in California accusing Backpage’s operators of pimping children, the website abruptly bowed to pressure in January and replaced its sex ads with the word “Censored” in red.

Even so, Tiffany — a street name — did not stop using the site, she said. Instead, her ads moved to Backpage’s dating section. “New in town,” read a recent one, using words that have become code for selling sex. “Looking for someone to hang out with.” Other recent dating ads listed one female as “100% young” and suggested that “oh daddy can i be your candy.”

In the fight against child sex trafficking, shutting down an epicenter like Backpage was a major victory, but one against a relentless foe that quickly unfurled new tentacles. The demise of Backpage’s adult ads undermined the trade, but it also illustrated how difficult it is to stamp out the practice of selling children for sex. The crime is rarely punished with the full force of the law — charges like rape or statutory rape — officials say; in many places it leads to just a citation, instead of an arrest.

For Tiffany, 18, the demise of Backpage’s adult listings has made things far more unpredictable — and dangerous, she said. The old ads allowed her to try to vet customers by contacting them before meetings, via phone or text message. With far fewer inquiries from the dating ads, she said, her first encounters with men now take place more often on the street as she gets into cars in red light districts around the Bay Area."

No comments: