The Questions We Ask Looking Back at 2020

If it comes as a shock to you to learn that human trafficking wasn’t a federal crime in the United States until the year 2000, you are not alone. It is a fact many have asked us to confirm this year — and one which, frankly, still amazes even us.

As we look back over the year that was, the one question we were asked by readers more than another was some version of: ‘How is what Tony Ortega did during his tenure as Backpage’s officially/unofficial spokesman considered any way close to legal?’

While the exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked in the United States. To individuals like Tony Ortega and his former Backpage bosses — all of whom lack anything in the way of a moral compass or ethical standards — that spelled opportunity, with a capital ‘O’.

This year we went in-depth working to expose exactly how Backpage-insiders like Tony Ortega leveraged their positions to cash in on this human misery. After all, exploiting vulnerable people for profit is the chief modus operandi of bullies and pimps like Ortega and his pals.

In pre-modern ages, the scourge of human trafficking was known by its less technical (if no less accurate) title: human slavery. And make no mistake, the business of sex slavery is exactly Tony Ortega et al used to build the vast Backpage empire during the years of its operation.

We’ve clearly demonstrated how Backpage operated as a functional “Craigslist” for all kinds of illegal activity, especially with regard to human trafficking and the trafficking of underage children.

These children, of course, were bought and sold across the country using Backpage as a “middle man”. This set up allowed pimp-friendly opportunists like Ortega to plant the false notion of ‘plausible deniability’ in the minds of his Village Voice readers. To hear Tony talk about Backpage you’d think that he was advocating for company a doing a civil service in providing a public platform for (in his own words) “consenting adults” to meet.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Backpage got paid for each of those ads, and was making money hand over fist doing it. By some reports Backpage made over $500 million on young girls like the one who was forced to perform sex acts at gunpoint, or a victim who jumped from a moving vehicle to escape her pimp, and got run over and killed.

Of course, you would never hear any of this from the mouth of Tony Ortega, who continues to play ignorant on a subject he once regularly opined upon as a self -ordained expert.

But in this, as in most of his repugnant opinions, the facts are against him. Ortega’s own closeness to the Backpage slave-runners was so hand-in-glove it is foolhardy to suggest he wasn’t aware of the crimes being perpetrated. Why did Tony Ortega stay silent through all of this?

Was it because, he too, was making so much money off the modern day child slavery trade that to it was easier for him to turn a blind eye to the lives he was helping to destroy?

Indeed, it is this damning question above all else which we here at the blog are asking ourselves as we look back at 2020.

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