Attorney Erik Bauer, representing underage children who were advertised in Seattle, was finally able to get his case to the Washington State Supreme Court. Their argument was that the company was deeply involved with assisting the traffickers in the creation of their content. Backpage appeared to have “coached” the criminals into using particular wording as to remain undetected by law enforcement. Their posting rules seemingly provided guidelines for traffickers to continue with their criminal activities. For example, the site would recommend posters spell out telephone numbers in order to make it difficult for the FBI to track. Additionally, they would advise them to utilize prepaid cards instead of debit or credit cards to stay anonymous. Additionally, the “Banned Terms List” was altered frequently. In a feigned effort to “crack down” on traffickers, Backpage stated they utilized a list of banned terms for their site. These terms included words such as “Teen” or “School Girl.” Yet no sooner was the list implemented, it was then reversed. Other times, if the words were not unbanned, common code language was promoted as a clear depiction of young children. In the end, judges ruled that the website did not “maintain neutral policies.” One judge implied the company was a “partner in crime” just as if they owned a site hosting “snuff films.” Link Here
By 2015, CEO Carl Ferrer was ordered to testify in front of a Senate Subcommittee on Child Trafficking. Ferrer disregarded his subpoena and failed to appear in court. He became one of the very few citizens to be held in Contempt of Congress. Meanwhile, a company-wide email was sent out laying off the majority of its moderators and advising to seek council immediately, should they be asked to testify. Ferrer was eventually arrested, however, a judge ruled this violated the CDA 230 and promptly released him.
In 2016, the Backpage founders and CEO found themselves in another legal bind with pimping charges coming from California’s then-Attorney General Kamala Harris. The case, however, was quickly swept under the rug. In October, co-founder Jim Larkin donated $10,000 to Nancy Pelosi super PAC (House Majority PAC), a committee which also contributed to Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign. Merely 2 months later, the case was dropped by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown who also cited CDA 230. According to The Washington Times, the owners have a history of being a major contributor in politics. Since 2010, they have been recorded as giving $99,000 to candidates and $95,000 to various Democratic parties. Link Here
Yet, politicians, judges, and super PACs aren't the only powerful entities who protected Backpage throughout the years. According to I am Jane Doe, several groups provided millions of dollars in financial support to Backpage during their legal battles. The main groups include the Electronic Frontier Foundation and The Center for Democracy and Technology. The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) contains the following major institutions:
AT&T, Facebook, Ford Foundation, Google, Inc. MacArthur Foundation, Markle Foundation, Microsoft, Yahoo, and even the George Soros backed Open Society Institute.
The majority of them provided millions of dollars in support to a company with serious serial accusations of child trafficking facilitation. Soros’ Open Society Institute donated nearly $2 million dollars to the CDT in 2014 alone. In 2017, Consumer Watchdog compiled a 48 page report entitled “How Google’s Backing of BackPage Protects Child Sex Trafficking.” Documents Here
Google has also recently come under fire for insinuating child sex ads are “free speech.” They continuously refuse to distance themselves from Backpage even after a letter was sent to Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sundar Pichai from the parents of the victims pleading with them to cease their support.
Now that the founders have been arrested following the raiding of their homes, there is much anticipation to see how many people this scandal will entrap and who will be the next major figure to fall. However, one thing is for certain. President Trump has taken the lead on halting the human trafficking epidemic; this is a fact the media can no longer hide. With 80% of the child trafficking victims being advertised on Backpage, this is an enormous blow to the child trafficking industry. As Trump said, he plans to put “the full weight” of the government behind stopping these criminals, including seizing the assets of serious human rights abusers as stated in the recently signed Executive Order #13818.