Women’s March endorses website shut down by feds for underage prostitution, sex trafficking, and sexual abuse of children

When will the woman who participate in the Women’s March, which I see as an admirable venture led by odious people, throw out their leaders? Three of the March’s co-heads, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory, are divisive women who cozy up to bigots and loons like Louis Farrakhan, and publicly endorse murderers and terrorists. I’ve written about their unsavory views and connections several times, but now the March has officially weighed in supporting a website under indictment for advertising illegal prostitutes and facilitating sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children, not to mention money laundering.

The report comes from Politico (click on link or screenshot to read the piece): 

Part of the article:

Backpage.com, a classified advertising website that faced persistent allegations of profiting from illegal prostitution, was shut down by the U.S. government Friday as authorities reportedly brought criminal charges against seven of those involved in operating the site.

Visitors to the website Friday afternoon saw a notice indicating various Backpage sites were taken over in an “enforcement action” brought by the FBI, the Postal Inspection Service and the IRS.

 A grand jury in Phoenix returned a 93-count indictment charging seven people associated with Backpage with using the internet to knowingly facilitate illegal prostitution and money laundering, according to CBS News and KPHO-TV.

Although part of the charges are buttressed by a new bill prohibiting online advertising of prostitution, which Trump has said he’ll sign, the site was under investigation well before this—beginning with the Obama administration. Further, the support for the indictment was bipartisan. Worst of all, the site apparently was involved in child sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

Politico:

Backpage and its founders have been the subject of intense investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in recent years. Critics said the site not only promoted illegal prostitution but facilitated sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children.

Backpage fought the investigators in court, but in January 2017 it shuttered its “adult” section, replacing the link to it with the word “censored,” written in red.

Backpage’s key rival, Craigslist, dropped its adult section under pressure in 2010.

The action against Backpage was hailed by members of both parties on Friday.

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. “It is a positive step forward in our efforts to hold accountable sex traffickers that sell women and children online,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of Backpage’s leading opponents in Congress, also praised the Justice Department’s action.

“This is great news for survivors, advocates, and law enforcement in Missouri and across the country, but it’s also long overdue, and further proof of why our bipartisan legislation is so critical,” McCaskill said in a statement. “State and local law enforcement need this bill to enable them to take swift action against websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking of children online, and to stop the next Backpage long before another website can claim so many innocent victims.”

Regardless of what you think about advertising prostitutes (Craigslist dropped that about a year ago), child sexual abuse and trafficking is unconscionable, as is money laundering. So what did the Women’s March do? They are endorsing Backpage.com and criticizing its closure:

Sex workers [sic] rights are women’s rights? Well, some people think so for adult prostitutes, and I’m on the fence about legalization, but a site that traffics in child sex, and engages in money laundering, shouldn’t be endorsed by the Women’s March.  This is mission creep engineered by ideologues who will brook no dissent from “gender traitors”, like women who oppose abortion. Regardless, it’s time for the the Women’s March to jettison its toxic leaders and put others in charge.

41 Comments

  1. glen1davidson
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    And think of the poor pimps!

    Now how are child molesters to safely get in touch with their clients?

    Glen Davidson

  2. ploubere
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the movement is organized enough to have a process for removing the leaders, who have indeed hijacked it. The only solution is likely to start a separate movement, but that will fracture solidarity and make both ineffective.

    These three women have done more to undermine their cause than even Fox News could have done.

  3. Flaffer
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I agree with the march founders on this one. The notion that backpage itself is guilty of child prostitution is to outlaw ships because some people allow child prostitutes to be carried from other countries. If Backpage knew of specific people prostituting children then yes, there is an issue. But the issue is not that.

    Whatever you think of prostitution, the feminist point is that women who choose to utilize their bodies for prostitution are exercising their own agency with their bodies. Backpage allowed this to happen between consensual adults. Note that there are thousands upon thousands of ads posted over the years and only handful of allegations of child prostitution. And note how prudish lawmakers conflate the two readily.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Perhaps the movement should just shut up on this issue rather than push the ideology of the leaders, given that many women disagree with their views.

      • Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        That may well be true, and also politically sensible. I am agnostic about that. However, I do have a knowledgeable friend who is decidedly unagnostic about it and if you are interested in follow-up she can be found here
        https://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/
        Maggie is a sex worker herself, is vitupertive about the importance of web-based screening of clients and the protections of legality, and has set up her own client blacklist (in Iceland so they dont share materials with the USA)which has cheap server access for sex workers to replicate their backpage accounts.
        And having (potentially) put you guys in touch I will now step away…

      • FA
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        You could make the same argument about abortion.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Flaffer appears to be seriously under-informed about Backgpage. It is one of the most odious enterprises on the planet, hiding its pernicious activities behind a statue’s legal loophole. This is not about prostitution per se, but it is about sex trafficking, human slavery and child prostitution and endangerment.

      • Flaffer
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        I have seen no good evidence that sex trafficking, child prostitution, etc. happens on Backpages/Craigslist and to what degree it occurs. Of course prostitution generally fosters this as there are unscrupulous (and morally repugnant) people who will utilize prostitution to make trafficking and child prostitution viable, no matter what means a john connects to a prostitute. So this is not specific to Backpages or Craiglist. Added to this is the point about the shutting down large amounts of consensual use of prostitutes for some unspecified abuse of johns and the pimps who traffic in child prostitutes.

        I would also think that this will not make trafficking and child prostitution magically go away. Whatever level of it that was there will just move to other means. I know law enforcement used the pages to identify and investigate trafficking and child prostitution since it was all there in black-and-white. No longer available.

        • Flaffer
          Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          The Washington Weekly article posted below is very troubling. Whatever is happening there, Backpage seems to be an odious enterprise. Defending it given that the article is correct seems like a mistake.

          • Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            This claim of theirs alone is indefensible;

            “Backpage does not deny that its site is used for criminal activity, including the sale of children for sex,” the report states. “Instead the company has long claimed that it is a mere host of content created by others and therefore immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act (CDA).”

          • Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

            Flaffer – kudos for reading more.

            • Diane G.
              Posted April 10, 2018 at 4:02 am | Permalink

              + 1

        • Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          I have seen no good evidence that sex trafficking, child prostitution, etc. happens on Backpages/Craigslist and to what degree it occurs

          Just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean that the evidence doesn’t exist. The FBI clearly thinks there is enough evidence of illegality to put people on trial. Unless you are privy to their investigation, it seems likely that they are better informed than you.

          • Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

            OK I wrote that before I read your retraction. In the circumstances it might be a bit too combative, but the principle still applies.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I am inclined to favor legalization of prostitution as long as there is mandatory testing for STDs twice a month.

    I disagree with much of libertarian philosophy but tend to agree with those folks on the notion that a legal vice can have its negative consequences controlled far more readily than an illegal one.

    Prostitution was legal throughout medieval Europe until a continent wide outbreak of syphilis.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      I have been moved to agree with this as well. It is possible for this line of work to not be exploitative as long as women are given autonomy and things are regulated to guard against unsavory interests that are always looking for opportunity.

    • john
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Can we require your car have a mandatory ignition lock to check for intoxication? Or perhaps 2x a month drug tests?
      You’re much more dangerous as a driver, and more likely to hurt an innocent and unconnected party.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        An STD lasts far longer than intoxication.

      • XCellKen
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        John ??? Oh, I see what you did there. LOLOLOL

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    The women’s movement should take a hard look at what they are attempting to do. This is not the way to win hearts and minds.

  6. Thanny
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Alleged.

    All the charges against the site are alleged until proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    I had never heard of the site before its seizure made the news, but I’ve seen far too much incompetence in law enforcement to conclude that it must actually be what’s claimed of it. Especially when it comes to accusations of malfeasance against women and children.

    The fact that the indictment is sealed does not bode well for its accuracy, in my opinion.

    So I’m not going to criticize an awful group for supporting what may or may not be an awful company.

  7. BJ
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I think these people shouldn’t be rushing to judgment on the case and should have shut up and waited until evidence is presented in court. However, I will say that if the allegations of child abuse and sex trafficking aren’t true and the site was only providing a place for prostitutes to freely offer their services in a safer environment, I support the spirit of that. I believe prostitution should be fully legalized and, since it isn’t, I want sex workers to have a safer alternative to working street corners and having pimps.

    The Women’s March leaders are stupid for rushing to the defense of a site alleged to have facilitated sex trafficking and child abuse, but I would avoid condemning the site as well, at least for those charges. Right now, the charges beyond allowing sex workers to use the site are just allegations, and I don’t think it’s fair to talk about the site as if everything in the indictment is true. If one thinks that facilitating prostitution is itself immoral, or that breaking the law to do so is wrong, that’s a different argument that can be legitimately made.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Wanting prostitution to be legalized is not quite where it is today in the U.S. So would it not be better to be simply demonstrating that goal instead of coming out for a web site that may be doing other illegal things as well. I mean, push whatever agenda you want, but standing up for this is probably not the way to do it.

      • BJ
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        Well, that is basically what I said.

    • Craw
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Tag.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      I’m right with you on that, BJ.

      The indictment could be easily be one of those overblown smears that prosecutors and self-appointed morals campaigners sometimes indulge in. (Sometimes? All the time.)

      As an aside, I’m surprised prostitution is still illegal in the US. A bit like the War on Some Drugs, I suppose. Did the US learn nothing from Prohibition? (Here in NZ it was legalised some years ago. The sky hasn’t fallen in).

      cr

  8. Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I think prostitution should be legal, and I think it’s not really fair to demand that websites monitor everything that users post to look for signs of criminality. But it looks like Backpage didn’t just provide an open venue that criminals exploited, Backpage actively facilitated human trafficking and child abuse. So… good riddance. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/bipartisan-investigation-reveals-backpagecom-covered-up-signs-of-child-sex-trafficking

    • Flaffer
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      That article is quite troubling. Assuming those things are true, I see the point. The evidence of the stripping of keywords is evidence that Backpage was ignoring evidence of trafficking.

      • Craw
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Actively obscuring it in fact.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I had never heard of backpage but wow, it is a huge operation!

  9. Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    “Critics said the site not only promoted illegal prostitution but facilitated sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children.”

    I am totally against “sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children” and would like to see it run out of existence. However, that won’t stop individuals with those sexual preferences from finding ways to meet their needs. Children have been sexually abused within families, extended famili es and communities forever, it seems, and is mostly
    not spoken of as though it doesn’t exist. There should be a “#metoo” uprising for kidnapped teenagers forced into prostitution and individuals who have been traumatized for life by being sexually abused as children.

    Legal prostitution is another matter when contracted as a mutually “agreeable” business arrangement between adults. As we know, prostitution is one of the oldest professions. I doubt it will ever be stopped by being made illegal and legally punished.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Your message confuses me. Is it saying you are okay with the web site? Are you saying it is all a waste of time because people will find a way? People will continue to shoot each other as well, so why make it a crime?

  10. nicky
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I am not on the fence as far as prostitution goes: it should be legalised. Much of the ‘less desirable’ parts of prostitution are exacerbated by it being illegal. Legalisation in itself will not stop human trafficking, but without it it is an impossible task. I would rather have proxenetism (pimping) illegal.
    Fully agree that the Woman’s March movement is totally compromised with their 3 ‘leaders’. Just Ms Sarsour alone should be sufficient for withholding any support.
    On the child prostitution and trafficking charges I’m a bit ambivalent. These accusations are easy to make, but often not substantiated. Cf Pizzagate, or the trope that Johannesburg has 10.000 child prostitutes (Africa-check rated it as “incorrect”). However, if they allowed it they should be shut down, stronger, be prosecuted.

  11. Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Can someone comment on the (assuming the jurisdiction is the US) what the “guilt by association” laws are like for ad places?

    I know that one cannot advertise illegal medical services in Canada – the publication is liable if I recall correctly. But in other contexts?

    I do agree (though this may make me guilty of “mansplaining”) that one should distance oneself for the reprehensible somewhat here on the part of those advocating for legal prostitution and sex work generally.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see it as a guilt by association thing but not an attorney. The guilt would be by responsibility. If your web site was being used for illegal activity, whatever it might be.

      • Posted April 10, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        I’ve heard about so-called “safe harbor” and versions of net neutrality that make it otherwise. For example, if I call someone on the phone and tell them to do a hit on my rival, the phone companies involved are not liable for the resulting assault or homicide.

  12. scottoest
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Adam Serwer at The Atlantic had a really great piece a couple of weeks ago on the whole Tamika Mallory flap, the complicated history of the Nation of Islam in neighbourhoods like the one she grew up in, and why some people are reluctant to call them out as a result.

    Gave me a new perspective, and helped me understand WHY Mallory was putting out such weak, equivocating statements in response to the furor – statements that were utterly baffling to me at the time, because it seemed so easy to get this one “right”.

    I don’t have a link handy, but I would absolutely recommend searching for it there.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      I believe this is it; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/

      I second scottoest; worth a read.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I read it and get it, but she’s a leader of a diverse group as well, one that stands against bigotry. She’w welcome to associate with him for personal reasons, but for the sake of the Women’s March she should disassociate herself from the NOI. She must choose whether to keep up her personal contacts, and her social-media approbation of Farrakhan, or call out the group’s bigotry for the greater good of her cause.

  13. Heather Hastie
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Adult prostitution has been legal in NZ for 15 years. I support its legalisation. Among other things, it makes a big difference in stopping things like child prostitution, sex trafficking, money laundering, pimps, etc because those who often know about it – sex workers – are in a better position to report it.

    I’ve got no idea how meeting clients happens here, but that too is safer when its legal. I think this site should have been shut down. It doesn’t matter if only a small part of its business was children, sex-trafficking, and money laundering. That must be stopped. Long-term that helps the sex workers too. They should have a safe way to meet clients. If it’s knowingly being used by criminals (and I don’t include sex workers in that definition) then that has to stop.

    Even before sex work was legal here, we had a sort of sex workers’ union – the Prostitutes’ Collective. It’s public face was women no longer working. They advocated for the workers and were a big part of getting legalisation. They are the sort of group that could set up some sort of advertising service and ensure the bad eggs are kept out. The FBI would be unlikely to shut them down I think, even though such a site would be illegal there.

    These three of the four leaders of the Women’s March are giving a wonderful initiative a bad name. They need to go. However, as has been noted above, that would cause terrible fracturing in the movement.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      No matter how many of us agree with the prostitution should be legal idea, the fact remains here in the U.S., except for a few counties in Nevada it is illegal here. So aside from the child porn or other things, even the prostitution is also illegal.


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