Here is why Tony Ortega will never speak out against Backpage dot com

This week a young woman who was sold for sex through ads placed on Backpage cleared a major legal hurdle when a Massachusetts Federal Court Judge allowed her civil suit despite the now familiar arguments from Backpage’s attorneys that it is not responsible for third party content (sex ads) placed on its website.

The suit involves a now 18-year-old woman who, as a minor, was sold for sex in Massachusetts and Florida through ads that were placed on Backpage. The woman successfully argued that because Backpage changed the content of a sex ad in which she was being offered for sex, they are party to creating the content and therefore cannot claim they are not responsible for the ad which sold the young woman for sex.

Tony Ortega worked for Backpage’s owners, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, from the mid-1990s until he was “let go” in September 2012 as a part of a re-organization of the company designed to squelch public outcry over the growing scandal of young women being sex-trafficked through their website. At the time Backpage was owned by Village Voice Media where Ortega was Editor-In-Chief of the Village Voice.

Ortega was the chief attack dog for Larkin and Lacey, who are now under indictment for money laundering in connection with Backpage, which has been called by California’s former Attorney General Kamala Harris (now a U.S. Senator), as “the world’s top online brothel.” Ortega’s role in the cover up has earned him the title of the “Backpage Pimp.”

Ortega’s assignment for Larkin and Lacey was to go after any public figures and legitimate media who sought to expose Backpage as a front for sex trafficking minors as well as other exploited women. Failing to address the real issue, Ortega deflected criticism claiming that:

“The whole point of Backpage.com is that we aren’t involved after two consenting adults find each other through the community bulletin board, which exists solely so that people can freely express themselves.”

Not according to a year-long Senate investigation which published its report in January 2017 entitled, “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking.” According to the Senate report, “Backpage had good reason to conceal its editing practices. Those practices served to sanitize the content of innumerable advertisements for illegal transactions—even as Backpage represented to the public and the courts that it merely hosted content created by others.”

“Backpage moderators told the subcommittee that everyone at the company knew the adult-section ads were for prostitution and that their job was to ‘put … lipstick on a pig’ by sanitizing them. Backpage also knows that advertisers use its site extensively for child sex trafficking, but the company has often refused to act swiftly in response to complaints about particular underage users.”

In defending the Backpage sex ads, Ortega demonstrated his intimate knowledge of the manipulation of sex ads by Backpage moderators. He once stated in the Voice that:

“We spent millions of dollars to put together strict policies to safeguard against child sex ads; we have security specialists searching for child sex keywords.”

The truth is that by changing a few words moderators would approve the ads so it was not so obvious they were being placed for the purpose of sex-trafficking.

Ortega’s defense of Backpage is inexcusable as it amassed an astounding 73 percent of all child trafficking reports, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

We are calling on Ortega to come clean and make up the damage he has caused to the thousands of underage victims. He has knowledge of the criminal racket through which his bosses amassed a fortune and with which they paid Ortega for his silence when they gave him a substantial severance package.

Any minor being advertised for sex is a crime and if Ortega cared at all for these underage victims he would come forward publicly with evidence of what he knows—despite blood money he received from the Backpage bosses.

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