Backpage: Primed For Crime From Day One

Tony Ortega Backpage Apologist

On September 11, 2013, a Backpage representative made a presentation to the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking. Following this presentation (which took place in Phoenix), the representative was asked whether there would be any “cons” to requiring verifiable identification of all escorts being advertised on Backpage’s website. In response, the representative did not identify any financial or logistical hurdles to the adoption of such a requirement. Instead, the representative stated that such a requirement would simply cause Backpage to lose business to other prostitution websites like or to overseas prostitution websites.

And why was it they stood to loose business to both foreign and domestic prostitution sites? Tony Ortega and other subservient yes-men on the Backpage payroll were too cowardly to ever admit the open secret that was clear to anyone even half-way paying attention — Because Backpage had been built from the ground up as nothing more than a prostitution clearinghouse itself.

During this meeting, members of the task force also provided the representative with evidence showing that Backpage’s moderation efforts were ineffective at preventing the publication of prostitution ads. Still, Tony Ortega said nothing, and Backpage did nothing.

On April 3, 2014, Andrew Padilla and Joye Vaught were forwarded an email that had been sent to Backpage by a credit card processing company in Canada. The email stated that “[w]e have multiple user accounts that are paying for your services for what understand to be prostitution advertisements…How you are processing with these transaction?

Backpage, in its stubborn refusal to admit even the slightest wrong-doing, ignored the email. And Tony Ortega continued to play dumb, even as he proceeded to sing Backpage’s praises in his editorial pages.

Then, on April 14, 2014, James Larkin and “Jed” Burnst received an email from Carl Ferrer discussing why Backpage had experienced “past high growth” and identifying various ideas for achieving “future growth.” This email stated that Backpage had been the beneficiary of “migration of content from other marketplaces to the internet” and identified one particular marketplace as a key source of Backpage’s customers: “[N]et loss for brick and mortar marketplaces: Strip clubs, hotels, and gathering spots displaced by the internet.

Put plainly, the email acknowledged that the supposed “escorts” advertising on Backpage were actually prostitutes (lawful escorts did not congregate at strip clubs, hotels, and other brick-and-mortar “gathering spots” during the pre-internet age). This email also attributed Backpage’s success in part to its adoption of policies that allowed customers to post ads without leaving any meaningful identifying information-in a list of Backpage’s advantageous policies, it identified “Anonymous,” “Prepaid card friendly,” “User can post paid ads without a valid email address,” and “bitcoin.”

In other words, because Backpage was built by criminals for criminals it was primed for crime from day one.

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