Frontline’s Latest Documentary Destroys Tony Ortega’s Flimsy Defense

Sex Trafficking in America, a new film from FRONTLINE, follows a detective and her unit at the Phoenix Police Department, which focuses on sex trafficking cases and child sexual exploitation. Since she began investigating sex trafficking cases in 2005, Detective Christi Decouflé has seen a shift toward traffickers using the internet as a marketing tool. So she and the rest of her colleagues — many of them women — have used the anonymity of the internet to launch a different type of undercover operation, one aimed at busting traffickers.

According to a report from Thorn, an advocacy organization that seeks to end child sex trafficking, online advertising for sex trafficking has been on the rise for the past 15 years. Before 2004, 38 percent of online trafficking survivors had been advertised online. Since that time, according to the survey, it had jumped to 75 percent as a result of web-based platforms and those who advocated for their legitimacy.

It will come as no shock to the readers of this blog that the most frequently reported advertising platform in the Thorn study was Backpage, the sex trafficking site of choice for its vocal proponents like Tony Ortega.

Frequent readers will recall how in 2017, a Senate investigation found that the sex marketplace site known as Backpage had knowingly and willfully facilitated the trafficking of minors by ‘creatively’ editing ads that might have indicated that a person was underage. Less than a year later Backpage was seized by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Days after Backpage’s seizure, the White House authorized a pair of bills, Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), into law. The bills — which cited Backpage, specifically and explicitly — aimed to curb sex trafficking sites by creating an exception to an internet “safe harbor” rule.

That rule (Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act) which cowards like Tony Ortega for too long hid behind, had provided protection to website publishers if third parties posted prostitution ads.

FOSTA-SESTA changed that. With the Section 230 exception now in place websites are held liable for prostitution ads on their site, eliminating the loophole that Tony Ortega’s bosses gleefully exploited.

We encourage all of our readers to watch this important documentary to more fully understand the scourge of child sex trafficking platforms like Backpage so that you can see for yourself why Tony Ortega’s defense of the men who built Backpage is so utterly indefensible.

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