The Backpage Ploy Part 2

Our last post discussed how Backpage attempted to characterize itself as ‘Sheriff of the Internet’, much in the way the proverbial fox would guard a henhouse.

They tried to create relationships with various law enforcement agencies in what amounted to nothing more than a PR strategy which sought to control the narrative around its involvement as the country’s largest platform for sex trafficking. In short, they weren’t content to skirt the existing system of law enforcement in place to guard against its practices, they wanted to rig the system to make themselves look like the good guys.

For example, at one point, the Backpage considered implementing a faulty photo verification process on Backpage.com that would be “easy to get around” in order to “create a false sense of security.” Indeed, Backpage thought that having such a system “riddled with loopholes” would allow them to “stop reporting to NCMEC” (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) altogether.

The promises repeatedly made by Backpage to law enforcement about aggressive reporting of child sex advertisements were nothing short of a Potemkin-like subterfuge.

By various means, Backpage actively managed its systems to minimize the number of advertisements reported to NCMEC, to avoid confirming the high frequency of child sex trafficking on its website. As further example of this, a senior Backpage executive set an artificial quota of no more than 16 reports to NCMEC daily from all 394 markets served by the website. Similarly, Backpage supervisors who did “not report young looking escorts” to NCMEC nevertheless received “very good” evaluations without any admonition to improve their reporting of child sex advertisements. In one instance, a Backpage supervisor admonished a moderator for reporting to NCMEC a girl who looked “young,” “drugged,” and “ha[d] bruises.” Indeed, as the Defendants in the Backpage case themselves noted: “were [sic] not trying to Bust [traffickers],” we just wanted to “clean up the front page” because “law enforcement rarely goes past page 2” on each advertisement.

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