Order Reprint of this Story April 10, Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today. It was a centralized location where they could find ads and decide whether or not to initiate a sting. Backpage was accessible to people living on the streets. People living in real dire situations.
That includes the popular mainstream classifieds website Craigslist, which shut down the personal ads, where many prostitutes advertised in coded language. Amid a crackdown on websites that cater to prostitution, the feds have shut down Backpage, the classified ad service long derided as the go-to hub for human trafficking, particularly in South Florida.
Miami Herald The moves are again stirring debate among law enforcement and victim advocates about how aggressively to go after websites such as Backpage, which until recently generally responded to subpoenas and cooperated with police seeking information on traffickers and underage victims. Daniel Morgalo, head of the street crimes unit, who acknowledged detectives will have to find new ways to combat trafficking.
We just have to adapt to the trends. The company was based in Dallas, although its bank accounts and computer servers are in Arizona, authorities say.
The website offered free or low-cost classified ads for people renting rooms, selling cars or peddling used furniture. But it quickly became known as the most popular place for buying sex, with prostitutes buying cheap, frequent ads in cities across the world. For some sex workers, the advent of sites such as Backpage and Craiglist cut out the dangerous pimps who took their money and forced them to work on dangerous streets, and allowed them to better screen clients.
By One year-old woman from Tennessee began posting Backpage ads for erotic massages nine years ago, a move necessitated by a faltering economy. She was earning a couple thousand dollars a month. By no means am I rich. She also used another website that screened clients. Both sites have now stopped taking ads from the United States.
I am college educated. I have a family. I have a husband. Not all women, however, are independent, willing participants in a state that draws visitors from across the globe.
In Miami-Dade, posts on Backpage have resulted in many high-profile human trafficking cases. In recent years, those charged include a local Spanish-language singer , a man who forced a runaway teen to tattoo his street name on her eyelids and a businessman who lured girls from Kazakhstan with the false promise of working at a yoga studio.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 74 percent of all its child-trafficking report last year was generated from Backpage. Just over half of adult victims in recent Miami-Dade cases, and 40 percent of minor victims, were advertised on Backpage. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been outspoken against Backpage; her office filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed last year by trafficking victims against the website.
The state later filed new charges against the men, this time charging them with money laundering. The trial is still pending. Efforts against Backpage mounted in January , when a U. Senate report blasted the site for facilitating criminal activity. By The pressure ramped up last month when Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, which amends federal law to make it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to go after website operators who knowingly allow third-parties to post ads that facilitate prostitution.
Critics say the law, which has yet to be signed into effect by President Trump, is overly broad and will stifle free online speech. In response, Craigslist — which remained a popular hub of prostitution — took down its personal ads for users in the United States. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.
Three days later, the U. Authorities also accuse Backpage of laundering the ill-gotten money through unrelated companies, foreign banks and cryptocurrency.
That has left those in the sex industry scrambling, creating group chats, private social media pages and messaging app chains to share info on what sites are up and running. Websites based overseas are largely out of the reach of U.
New clients, however, have not caught up.