Tony Ortega, The Propaganda Face of Backpage.com

Florida Abolitionist, Inc. is a non-profit organization in Orlando, Florida with a mission to combat and end human trafficking and other forms of modern day human slavery. It provides direct services to trafficked adults and children.

In a new lawsuit, Florida Abolitionist has filed against the men behind Backpage, it alleges Backpage knowingly participated in, and facilitated, sex trafficking. By doing so Backpage has increased the number of trafficked adults and children that Florida Abolitionist treats.

However, there’s an interesting twist in this case, making it different from what we’ve been seeing in the myriad of cases being filed against Backpage. They’re suing Backpage for having caused Florida Abolitionist to expend more resources providing services to trafficked adults and children than it would have otherwise, thereby decreasing, diverting, and draining the resources devoted to its main mission of preventing and ending human trafficking.

The Florida Abolitionist filing alleges that Backpage’s actions directly impacted and frustrated Florida Abolitionist’s mission, including having diverted significant resources, time, staff, and funds from its mission to end human trafficking in order to support and shelter the new flood of trafficking victims Backpage created. Despite being on notice from state and local authorities for more than five years, Backpage continued to engage and profit from its position as a digital hub for the sexual exploitation of minors. By doing so, this new suit alleges, countless more victims suffered as a result making the problem worse by an order of magnitude. Florida Abolitionist also claims that Backpage’s influence in underage sex trafficking expanded well beyond its own website. In addition to posting ads for sex with children on its own platform it is alleged the Backpage hosted sex ads using a subsidiary website controlled by Backpage aptly titled “EvilEmpire.com“. As the seemingly unending horror-show of Backpage’s sprawling “evil empire” continues to be exposed we will continue to keep you informed of the latest developments.

Now reflect on the following words written by Tony Ortega when he was the Editor in Chief of the Village Voice and being paid by the Backpage owners (Lacey and Larkin) to squash any negative publicity against Backpage. Doesn’t it make you wonder why Ortega has been left out of any prosecution or civil litigation after profiting from child sex trafficking?

Congress hauled in Craigslist on September 15, 2010. There, feminists, religious zealots, the well-intentioned, law enforcement, and social service bureaucrats pilloried the online classified business for peddling “100,000 to 300,000” underage prostitutes annually. Those same numbers had already inspired terrified politicians, who let loose hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade to prohibitionists bent on ending the world’s oldest profession. The Craigslist beat-down was absurdist theater. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking” culminated with the humbled attorneys from Craigslist announcing that they would close down their adult classified business. The First Amendment was shouted down in the name of children. Village Voice Media watched with more than passing interest. From its earliest days, the Village Voice has run adult classifieds. Today, those classifieds are hosted online at Backpage.com. Having run off Craigslist, reformers, the devout, and the government-funded have turned their guns upon Village Voice Media. Solicited by advocates, such websites as Huffington Post and The Daily Beast and others in the mainstream media raised the alarm that America’s children have been enslaved in prostitution, thanks to the Internet. It is true that Village Voice Media has a stake in this discussion. But the facts speak for themselves. – Tony Ortega, June 29, 2011

A small group of political activists is quite ready to provide the answer. In the second decade of the 21st century, we are being told that there’s a widespread, growing, and out-of-control problem to fear in our country. And it has a catchy name: “trafficking.”

In cities across America, we are told over and over, like a mantra, that “100,000 to 300,000” underage sex slaves have been stashed away from public view, with more joining them every day. It’s a problem growing so quickly that the United States soon will be no better than Moldova or Nepal in regard to child sex trafficking. Why go to the third World looking for this nightmare when our cities and suburbs are bursting with children in bondage?

The actual data behind this “epidemic” is wanting in the extreme. It involves guesses by activist professors, junk science by nonprofit groups trying to extract money from Congress, and manipulation by religious groups hiding their real agendas about sex work. And one of the most visible enablers in this national fantasy has been young CNN reporter Amber Lyon.

Seven years ago, the people I work for were smart enough to start Backpage.com, a competitor to Craigslist. While other newspapers were doing little more than publicly condemning Newmark for the way Craigslist has, for years, eaten into their classified ads revenue, we decided to fight back. That’s just how we operate.

Backpage.com has since inherited some of the adult business that left Craigslist. The Village Voice itself has been taking such ads since the mid-1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, the adult business was a large part of the paper. Today, it’s a smaller presence in the print edition, and the Voice‘s website has no adult advertising—that business appears only at Backpage.com.

We’ve spent millions of dollars putting in place strict policies and monitoring services to make sure that it is only adults finding each other through Backpage.com‘s adult pages. Not only do we have security specialists making constant searches for keywords that might indicate an underage user, but we’re quick to cooperate with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when we find suspicious ads. – Tony Ortega, July 6, 2011

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