back to article CEO of shady ad site Backpage and owners arrested on human trafficking suspicions

The CEO of the notorious online classified site Backpage, Carl Ferrer, has been arrested in Texas on allegations of sex trafficking, after a joint investigation by California and Texas. Earlier this year the US Senate, investigating human trafficking, voted to hold Ferrer in contempt after he refused to co-operate. It was the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'h' missing from title..

    1. Kurt Meyer

      That missing 'h'

      More than compensated for by the inclusion of all 51 State Attorneys.

      1. Chris Miller
        Headmaster

        Re: That missing 'h'

        DC has its own 'State' Attorney - it's not a state, but District Attorney is a different thing.

        1. Kurt Meyer

          Re: That missing 'h'

          @ Chris Miller

          "DC has its own 'State' Attorney - it's not a state, but District Attorney is a different thing."

          No, DC does not have its own 'State' attorney, and 'Disrtrict Attorneys' aren't mentioned, either in the article or my post.

          As written: "all 51 state attorneys"

          Properly written: "all 50 state Attorneys General, and The Attorney General of The District of Columbia"

          Pedant indeed.

      2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: That missing 'h'

        I'm sure that it refers to the fact that one of the State Attorneys was replaced after signing the order and then their replacement also signed it.

        1. Kurt Meyer

          Re: That missing 'h'

          @ Crazy Operations Guy

          "I'm sure that it refers to the fact that one of the State Attorneys was replaced after signing the order and then their replacement also signed it."

          Not so. The AG signs for their state, and if the individual AG is replaced for whatever reason, the state is not.

          There are only ever 50 State Attorneys General, plus the AG for the District of Columbia.

  2. Ben Burch

    This is bloody ridiculous.

    This is a vast overreach of the law not coincidentally tied to an election year.

    Nobody's rights are safe in an election year.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

      They are going after the owners because going after the real pimps and low lifes is too much work. This site may be helping facilitate prostitution but the owners are actually advertising or pimping on the site. Agreed this is probably an overreach (would have to check how each state's law is worded).

      Point of fact, Nevada is the only state where a local jurisdiction can legalize prostitution. So in Nevada there are some counties were running a whorehouse is legal. Nevada is the only state that allows prostitution.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

        Except, of course, that the authorities are trying to go after the pimps.

        The problem is that Backpage's business model is built on disguising who the pimps are and they are refusing to cooperate in any investigation. Presumably said lack of cooperation is motivated by greed, as their lucrative business of fronting for pimps would evaporate overnight as soon as it became known that they were cooperating with the authorities.

        The twat-tivists need to learn that the fact that someone's running an internet site does not prevent them from also being a piece of shit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

      While human trafficking is deplorable, other courts have already ruled that their business model is legal and held that they aren't criminally or civilly accountable for the actions of their users. Courts have also ruled that the government DOES NOT have the right to demand access to information on how ads are filtered.

      They don't charge for ad placement, nor do they display advertising on the pages that display the user-generated ads. As such, the state is going to have a very hard time establishing any kind of probable cause for the statement that they are generating profiting from the actions of the pimps.

      If Backpage is liable for the prostitution, then the board of works of any town is just as liable for the actions of any streetwalkers in their jurisdiction.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

        Just... no. And the courts were wrong.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

      HELLO? Assisting in a crime is a crime itself. There are no rights involved here.

      There are also many other newspapers and websites like this and they too should be prosecuted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

        How exactly were they assisting in the crime sweetie? Did they offer special tools on the site that were only available to pimps involved in human trafficking? Or were the police conducting an investigation on specific posters and did the ceo of backpage block or otherwise failed to assist the investigation in some way?

        The real butt hurt here (as with all our insane prostitution laws) is from women as they can't stand the price of pu**y being lowered. Someone kidnapped a child in a shopping mall. Lets shut the whole place down and arrest the owners. Oh, won't you please think of the children!

        1. Alfred

          Re: This is bloody ridiculous.

          "How exactly were they assisting in the crime sweetie?"

          They were told that advert X is placed by a criminal, to facilitate a crime. They chose to continue displaying advert X. In doing so, they knowingly assisted a criminal commit a crime.

          Your use of "sweetie" marks you out as a passive-aggressive prick. Your inability to understand how knowingly displaying an advert from a criminal, placed for the purposes of criminal activities, assists the undertaking of a crime, marks you out as dangerously stupid.

  3. DNTP

    Ferrer launches acting career

    October 2016- Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has announced a career transition into professional acting, and in a press conference today said that he had accepted a role in Michael Bay's hotly anticipated 2018 remake of Casablanca, promoted as a more "explosive and explicit" adaptation of the dated and anachronistic 1942 original.

    Ferrer performed a line from his audition script for the press:

    "I am shocked- shocked- to find prostitution going on in here!" (cut to huge explosion)

  4. GrumpyKiwi
    Big Brother

    For teh Chilrunz

    Whenever you hear "for the children" you can guarantee that it's you the general public who are about to get an unlubricated rodgering. Can't see any difference in this case.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: For teh Chilrunz

      Underage prostitution is real and a real problem even is this modern age.

      Do you have a problem with prosecuting that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: For teh Chilrunz

        Sure it is. And if you really cared about that you should be pissed off right now as the real pimps are going scott free while someone whose involvement is questionable at best is being arrested instead. But your faux outrage over underage prostitution is simply a cover for your beef with something else, isn't it?

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: For teh Chilrunz

          Pimps are NOT getting off scott free. I hope you got a good deal on that straw man because frankly, they saw you coming.

          And holy fucking hell! 3 downvotes against prosecuting underage prostitution? What the hell is wrong with you people? Just what the hell?!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Awesome

    That site is blatantly facilitating crime for profit, including some truly malevolent stuff.

    Having personally looked through the prostitution section in search of an advert someone "helpfully" posted on my (wife's?) behalf, after some weirdo showed up at our doorstep to answer it, I say KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!

    Same with the EFF and CDT - they've become shills for social media scumbags.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shills, I say

      EFF gave 5 stars to Yahoo! in their 2015 "Who has your back?" report. What else are they dead wrong about?

      CDT is EFF's Washington, D.C. offshoot, hardly an independent voice in the chorus of Backpage's defenders.

  6. kain preacher

    Craigs list got rid of the adult ads not because they thought they were wrong but because the feds and State AG were going to make there life hell.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is that so?

    I see the word "raped" ocurring many times on the article.

    If we substitute "raped" with "made consensual sex under payment", I think the article remains the same.

    By "rape" I understand to be the act a guy unable to control their sexual urges do. So he approaches a girl, make a physical threat, drag the girl to some hidden place and makes forced non-consensual sex with her, usually beating her badly in the process so she do what he wants. Doesn't seems to be the case here, because no girl can survive to this kind of brutality 100 times.

    I don't live in the USA or in the UK, so please someone clarify?

    I think that, if the girl doesn't want to do such a thing, the responsible is the pimp who forces the girl, and Backpage is just a tool the pimp uses, and will use another ones if there's no Backpage. so, the real hunt must be after the pimps, but I think to sue Backpage owner is easier, and the real problem remains untouched.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. David Webb

      Re: Is that so?

      Generally speaking, it's quite simple. The "pimps" have put the adverts up and then sells sex with the child to perverts, the child having no say in the matter (usually with "if you don't have sex with this guy, we will hurt you so badly you'll end up unable to walk"). It's not just limited to children either, illegal immigrants can be imported by criminals who then steal their passports and force them to work in the sex trade, they are forced into having sex as they have no other choice.

      Rape really means lack of consent, if the person is unable to give consent or is forced to give consent then it is rape. All rapists should be castrated, with a blunt pineapple.

      To the post above, there is no statutory rape in the UK, if you have sex with someone under the age of 16 you are charged with a sexual crime but not rape.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is that so?

        Thanks on the clarification. In that case, the term "rape" is used because of their age, not necessarily because they did something violent with the girl without her consent. If the guy is as caring as it can be and the girl gives their consent (in exchange of money) freely, but the girl is underage, it's still rape. Understood.

        I also understand the case of illegal immigrants that are forced to prostitute. But I have not seen on the article strong evidence or testimonials that the girls on the ads are in, the most part, illegal immigrants forced by pimps. Even because illegal immigrants are arrested and deported if caught by the authorities, so to sue Backpage owner, they must be legal residents, I think.

        I would like to know if the authorities have a concrete number on percent of ads created on free will by the girls themselves and percent of ads created by pimps on behalf of the girls. Not trying to defend Backpage owner, just curious.

        1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

          Re: Is that so?

          "so to sue Backpage owner, they must be legal residents, I think."

          This isn't a lawsuit, its a criminal investigation by the State. Besides, even if the victims were here without papers, they still have rights, including the ability to sue people and businesses for violations of human rights are cannot be deported until justice has been served.

        2. David Webb

          Re: Is that so?

          No, underage sex is not rape (except where the child is under 13, the age of consent being 16 - or 18 depending on certain factors), rape is penetration where consent is not (or cannot be) given. If a girl is too drunk to give consent, that is rape, no matter how gentle and nice to the girl you are.

          Basically the people involved have coerced the children into prostitution, they may get them drunk or drug them or threaten them or whatever but the kids have no way to say no, no way to object, they are not giving informed consent or their ability to give informed consent has been removed, that is why it is rape.

    3. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Is that so?

      Rape is when the other participant either does not, or legally cannot, provide -positive- consent to sexual intercourse.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Is that so?

      All underage sex is classified as rape.

    5. wayward4now
      Headmaster

      Re: Is that so?

      "If we substitute "raped" with "made consensual sex under payment", I think the article remains the same."

      Not when a minor is involved, as this article plainly points out. A minor can not give assent. Ergo, it is properly "rape".

  8. scrubber

    "aiding and abetting criminal conduct makes one "punishable as a principal"

    Like roads for bank robbers? Google maps for ... any number of criminals from burglars to terrorists? VPNs for anyone from 'pirates' to dissidents to Manning and Snowden.

    There are criminals and victims here and justice should be served, but the 1st Amendment doesn't exist just so we can say uncontroversial things, and this is an extension of the right of people to allow people to speak without being held liable for what they say.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      No, like fencing stolen goods or selling guns to criminals or facilitating prostution of underage girls.

      Damn I can't believe some of you do not understand this!

      1. scrubber

        Re: I can't believe some of you do not understand this!

        "Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple enlisted the Centre for Democracy and Technology to co-ordinate its defence of Backpage. “Digital rights” activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology filed briefs in support of Backpage."

        Do you think these groups are all in it because they want to advertise kids for sale? Or do you think they recognise that the government will always begin an assault on our rights by using terrorism, sex trafficking and/or children?

        If people are openly advertising kids for rent on this site then surely that makes life easy for the cops?

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: I can't believe some of you do not understand this!

          "Do you think these groups are all in it because they want to advertise kids for sale? Or do you think they recognise that the government will always begin an assault on our rights by using terrorism, sex trafficking and/or children?"

          None of the above. Believing that the likes of Google and Facebook are worried about government interference with civil rights is as ridiculous as believing that they're trying to support child prostitution. The only reason these companies are involved is that they see a potential threat to their bottom line.

  9. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    How about actually legalizing it?

    When will the rest of the world catch up the Scandinavian countries when it comes to prostitution laws? Or even Canada's laws...

    Or do what Nevada does where prostitutes are licensed and certified to be here legally and consenting to the profession. Such a system severely cuts down on human trafficking and non-consensual prostitution since the vast majority of consumers of the sex trade would chose the legal option far more often than the illegal options.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: How about actually legalizing it?

      Prostitution of minors will never legal and for good reason.

    2. jonfr

      Re: How about actually legalizing it?

      Norway, Sweden prostitution is illegal, using the odd logic that selling is legal but buying isn't. The real problem is that this has not stopped prostitution. It has only made life worse for those women and mean that are in this business. Only Denmark has prostitution legal, but its not regulated as in Germany or Austria.

      France has also gone the way of Norway and Sweden. The problem with Norway is that even if a prostitution is legal in one country, a Norwegian citizen can still be prosecuted for buying sex abroad (where it might be legal) in Norway once it returns home. I find this a little bit fascist.

      News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7806760.stm (On Norway)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why all the shilling?

    I don't get it. How can you people defend Backpage? "Shady" is an understatement. It's worse than Ashley Madison. Not only do they have inadequate filtering, allegedly they're telling pimps exactly how to bypass the filters, and editing database records to cover up for them.

    It will be difficult for the owners to claim they're not pimps if it's true that 99% of Backpage's income comes from prostitution ads. That would make them the pimps' pimps, the kingpins.

    Free speech? Please. You will cease to be an absolutist when you're on the wrong end of it. If this is acceptable, where do you propose to draw the line... soliciting murder? kidnapping? doxxing?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Why all the shilling?

      There are seriously sick people posting on this topic.

  11. x 7

    I hope they go after the other websites such as Adultwork. That's one of the biggest advertisers of trafficked women. In the UK you can bet that a majority of the Eastern Europeans advertised on there are being forced into prostitution by traffickers / pimps. The same goes for the girls advertised on other sites such as Vivastreet. I've no problem with women offering sex for sale, but major issues with websites which exist solely to support exploitation

  12. Whiznot

    How did the girl manage to stay 15 for three years?

  13. Kernel Silver badge

    Backpage is not the biggest of the problems here

    If there's 10,000+ cases a year being referred to just one organization, and the typical* victim is being raped "at least five times every night for three years.” then the problem is not that a website is facilitating the advertising of such "services".

    No, the real problem is that you have a population with a significant addiction to the sexual abuse of children and until that is addressed then the problem will remain. Unfortunately some of the customers will possibly be people in positions of influence that will allow them to impede any such efforts - which may be the issue the UK is having at the moment in trying to investigate some allegations of historical sexual abuse by important people.

    * If they're not untypical then they must be typical, yes?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Backpage is not the biggest of the problems here

      One does not excuse the other.

      Does. Not.

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    So why now?

    Help me out here - can anyone explain why the authorities are doing this now? The web site has been around a several years doing this any nobody seemed to care too much. But now we're all up in arms about it. Nobody appeared to care a month ago.

    1. ZeroDrop

      Re: So why now?

      They have found someone to crucify and to blame, that's why now.

      Not because is a better solution that will solve the problem, law enforcement just found a way to say before the press they're doing their work.

      The problem is too complex to have a simple solution like arresting Backpage owner, the demand for prostitution will remain exatcly where it is, on the heart of people willing to pay for sex. While the demand remains, people (pimps) will find a way to supply for this demand and profit from it.

      Not even talking about the girls that are willing to sell their body for a very welcome extra income.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So why now?

        They've been going after Backpage for 5 years, but kept getting thwarted by section 230. Now they (allegedly) have enough evidence to charge the owners for direct participation in the pimping.

        Shutting down Backpage won't stop it, but it will make it harder and riskier.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: So why now?

      Bullcrap rhetoric aside, it's usually a matter of money, manpower and time and not enough of any to put these cases together any faster.

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