CN: child sexual abuse and sex trafficking
Google, Facebook, and Microsoft basically Silicon Valley committed what must be an unforgivable act of corporate greed — if any such category of misdeed still exists in this increasingly post-moral America of ours. The tech behemoths shooed their legal teams — AKA diverted substantial dollars — into writing up amicus briefs in defense of a website called Backpage.
This all quietly happened a few years ago — when backpage.com was being sued on multiple fronts for allowing underage sex trafficking victims (read: children) to be advertised on their site.
Silicon Valley decided their interests fell with the “right” of Backpage to be freed from any responsibility for the evil their company made a profit on, rather than with the fundamental human right of young girls to NOT be kidnapped and raped several times a day.
I know we’re all running dangerously low on public trust. The government, the media, Big Business, Big Pharma — their approval numbers are in a trough deeper than they've been in any other era in any living person’s lifetime. And with the 24/7 deluge of corruption stories, I sometimes wonder what uninformed Pollyannas are making up that 10 - 15 percent in the “approval” camp.
To paraphrase Madonna here, we’re living in a cynical world, and I am a cynical girl.
But this story about backpage.com and the Silicon Valley companies defending sex trafficking has made me question if good people — or even baseline-human people — actually exist in the corporate world anymore.
The documentary I Am Jane Doe follows the story of two families whose lives were irrevocably damaged by Backpage. In both cases, distraught parents found their missing daughters being advertised and sold for sex on backpage.com. After retrieving their girls, two moms — Nacole and Kubiiki — filed separate suits claiming backpage.com was responsible in part for the crimes against their children.
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Backpage.com was originally part of The Village Voice, New York’s best-known rebel news outlet and regular champion of liberal causes. When Kubiiki Pride first filed her suit in 2010, Village Voice Media offered a settlement and contracted with an outside party to start promoting how great a company they really were. They went so far as to release a press statement saying Pride was “looking for a payday.”
I know it may sound naive, but I am shocked by these companies. I find it impossible to accept that this level of devotion to the profit-motive exists.
The story that follows is not just thoroughly disturbing — it’s a glaring indictment of current U.S. law and the seeming lack of will on the part of far too many in the judicial system to have a care for the rights of child sex trafficking victims.
From 2010-2016, backpage.com made hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. The site was used by pimps and various others to advertise humans for sex, with said advertisers paying backpage.com to use their site. Several of the suits against Backpage alleged the company was in cahoots with purveyors of underage girls, offering evidence of emails sent by Backpage that explicitly coached users on how to avoid red-flag language (i.e., “Lolita”) that would get their ads pulled.
It’s probably illuminating to note here that when Craigslist was made aware that their “adult services” section was being utilized by sex traffickers, the company shut that part of their site down in 2010.
It didn’t take Craigslist six years and dozens of lawsuits to figure out it was morally wrong to profit off one of the worst crimes ever committed by the human species. Craigslist didn’t cling to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) like Backpage did, appearing in courtroom after courtroom, hearing after hearing, to defend themselves under the guise of “free speech.” Craigslist didn’t share the compulsion to file amicus briefs alongside Google, Facebook, and Microsoft defending Backpage.
Here are some other facts to note while keeping in mind that the biggest search engine and the largest social media company on planet earth spent time and money to ensure backpage.com’s right to keep on profiting off the sexual abuse and rape of underage girls:
- The majority of children trafficked online were trafficked through backpage.com.
- Backpage.com allowed pimps to use prepaid credit cards and bitcoin, thus ensuring if they were caught trafficking underage victims, they would be untraceable.
- Backpage laid off all its advertising moderators in 2015. They were under strict non-disclosure agreements, but one who spoke anonymously cited a lag time between an ad being posted and a moderator’s ability to look at it. In other words, an ad for an underage girl could be up for as long as three hours before it was removed.
- In 2015, CEO of backpage.com, Carl Ferrer, failed to show up after being subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating backpage, led by Sens. John McCain and Claire McCaskill.
Ferrer, along with James Larkin and Michael Lacey — two funders of the Village Voice who decided to stay with backpage.com after it was spun off as a separate entity — are still free men. They showed up to Congress only after being arrested for ignoring a previous subpoena, plead the 5th, and then walked away.
They’ve become multimillionaires off the literal rape of children.
And Google, Facebook, and Microsoft defended them.
I quit Facebook a long time ago, but it’s Bing all the way for me now. I know it may sound naive, but I am shocked by these companies. I find it impossible to accept that this level of devotion to the profit-motive exists. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft don’t want to pay what it would take to monitor the content that gets posted to their own sites. So they’ll get in bed with child rapists and those who make money from them.
If there’s any issue that should shake a person out of a bottom-line stupor, that issue should be the sexual abuse of kids. Somehow for Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, that issue was still not enough.
Sign the change.org petition to tell Congress it’s time to amend Section 230 of the CDA and tell Silicon Valley and anyone else who thinks child rape is the price of free speech that America doesn’t accept their interpretation of the First Amendment.