Closing the Loophole

Kamala Harris was the first charged the owners of Backpage.com with more than 10 counts of pimping.

Backpage.com, the infamous classified ad website, was notorious for hosting advertisements connected to sex trafficking. As has been discussed here and elsewhere, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 74 percent of all the reports related to child sex trafficking that the organization received were directly traceable to Backpage.com.

As attorney general, Harris made combating human trafficking a department priority. Describing Backpage.com as “the world’s top online brothel,” Harris — now a 2020 presidential candidate — tried to charge the owners of Backpage.com with pimping not once, but twice, only to have the charges dismissed both times!

As its defense Backpage.com cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protected internet providers from being charged in relation to content on their sites. And they hid behind this loophole for as long as they could. It was this little scrap of law trumpeted by Tony Ortega so proudly as what would keep Backpage’s first amendment rights beyond the reach of justice.

What Tony Ortega could not foresee was Congress’s federal anti-trafficking bill package (FOSTA-SESTA), which had been designed with input from people like Kamala Harris, specifically to remove this type of protection for websites like Backpage.com.

Simply put- the beauty of the FOSTA-SESTA bill was that it closed the Section 230 loophole by making Backpage liable for advertisements related to sex work or sex trafficking.

And that was the game changer that finally signaled the death knell to Backpage.  It’s strange that we don’t hear much from Tony on the subject anymore… He once seemed to revel in what he described as ‘Backpage’s free speech’ in selling advertising to pimps. These days he keeps himself well hidden and his opinions on the matter strictly to himself.

Could it be he is worried that as loop holes are closed he knows it’s only a matter of time until his number is up? Stay tuned to find out!

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