In January, after a U. Senate inquiry published scathing findings, among them that the company "knowingly concealed evidence of criminality," Backpage abruptly shut down its U. Not so in Canada, where there has been little or no legal action and tepid federal government response. The ads continue to be uploaded hourly. The site's prevalence raises thorny questions.
Some police see it as a useful investigative tool in finding and reaching victims and say shutting it down would only result in new sites popping up. Child advocacy and anti-trafficking groups, however, say it is facilitating criminal activity, including child trafficking, and needs to be stopped.
Actions against the company in the United States "beg the same question about what should be happening in the Canadian context," said Signy Arnason, associate executive director and director of Cybertip.
And within there, there are definitely youths who are being exploited in this capacity. Liz McDougall, general counsel who speaks for Backpage, said the company "can't comment currently. Kevin Coon, managing partner at global law firm Baker McKenzie, said the company "is the key purveyor for these ads here in Canada as well. It's very unknown but it is insidious, and that service is the major advertiser and exploiter in the industry.
He said it is "running afoul" of Criminal Code provisions on the purchase of sex. Anybody can go on the website and see how prevalent it is," said Mr.
Coon, who specializes in human rights and labour rights, adding that the federal government "has a key role to play" in legislative action and in enforcing existing laws and raising awareness. Canada's national action plan on human trafficking expired last year, and Public Safety Canada did not say when a new plan would be announced.
Under Canadian law, it is prohibited to advertise sexual services and to procure the sexual services of someone under the age of But whether it is due to a dearth of enforcement, other priorities among governments or a need for new legislation, the ads flourish.
Across Canada, an average of 1, new adult-services ads which include female escorts and body rubs are posted on Backpage every day, according to Uncharted Software, a Toronto-based software and data visualization firm.
It pegs the number of unique ads in Toronto alone at about a day. By its count, Backpage hosts about 60 per cent of all the online adult ads in Canada, making it the largest provider in the country.
Backpage has location sites, according to this year's U. It is the world's No. The Senate report cites the National Association of Attorneys General in describing Backpage as a "hub" of human trafficking, "especially the trafficking of minors.
Backpage "does not deny that its site is used for criminal activity, including the sale of children for sex," the report says. Rather, the company argues it just hosts content created by others and is thus immune from liability under the U. But the inquiry found that Backpage systematically edited its adult ads, scrubbing them of terms such as "teenage," "little girl" and "rape" before posting them.
Pressure on the company is coming from many sides. Backpage is the subject of a searing new U. The film follows the legal battle that several mothers are fighting on behalf of their teenage daughters, who were trafficked and advertised on the site.
In , major credit-card companies stopped allowing their cards to be used to purchase Backpage adult ads, citing concerns about the trafficking of minors. Bitcoin is used instead. In Canada, some police see the site as a useful tool in their investigations.
If the site were shut down in Canada, "I'm sure something else would pop up within a few weeks, but then we'd be behind the eight ball trying to catch up again. Police in Ontario say Backpage is a key place where underage girls are advertised. Those in Calgary and Edmonton, however, say those types of ads are more likely to appear on free social-media sites such as Tinder.
Even if the site were more regulated or shut down, some say that would not address the root of the problem, which is the demand for these services. Nor would it change the broader issues that make children more vulnerable, such as homelessness or addiction.
When the girls listed on the site are underage, Det. Hay says, odds are they have a pimp. He estimates that of all the escort ads on Backpage in his city, at least 25 per cent of the girls and women are being trafficked. Some of these girls that we've come across haven't eaten in days, haven't slept in days, don't know what city they're in … have been beaten, abused," Det. I've been a police officer for 17 years, and this is something — I can't even wrap my head around it some days.
It's a really horrible crime. Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, regularly receives calls from family members who are searching for their missing daughters — and using Backpage to see whether they're still alive. She estimates that about 60 per cent of the people her centre speaks with are tracking their daughters through Backpage. She thinks more enforcement is needed to tackle the demand side of the crime — the johns and pimps — and that Backpage ought to be shut down.
Trafficking across Canada is a huge issue impacting women and girls in our communities," she said. In an e-mail, Public Safety Canada said the government "takes very seriously" any potential tools used to facilitate the trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Barbara Gosse, chief executive officer of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, said "people need to know that in Canada you can not buy sex from a juvenile. It is child abuse. We need to start using the right language. There is no such thing as child prostitution — it is strictly child abuse. Writers for Forbes , the Huffington Post , and Fast Company have suggested that Backpage is a useful tool for law enforcement and the public in exposing the perpetrators of human trafficking.
In many cases, the critics of Backpage say that these efforts are less than is necessary or possible. Some say that no efforts to police the site and report bad actors outweigh the negative impact the site may have in this area.
They enlisted support from musicians, politicians, journalists, media companies and retailers. The campaign created a greater public dialogue, both pro and con, regarding Backpage. Over , people including religious leaders, 51 attorneys general, 19 U. In , Village Voice Media separated their newspaper company, which then consisted of eleven weekly alternative newspapers and their affiliated web properties, from Backpage, leaving Backpage in control of shareholders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin.
Executives for the spinoff holding company, called Voice Media Group VMG and based in Denver, raised "some money from private investors" in order to purchase the newspapers. Beginning in a number of legal challenges were initiated by foes of Backpage in attempts to eliminate the adult section of the website and or shut down the website entirely. These actions included legislative initiatives as well as lawsuits brought by individuals; all of these lawsuits, which were mostly brought by politicians and NGOs, were successfully challenged by Backpage, which argued that the First Amendment protections of free speech were being compromised by any restriction on postings by individuals on the Backpage website.
The Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution as well as the Commerce Clause were also cited as reasons that these efforts were illegal under U. Section says that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. It contains details about 17 alleged victims which range from minors as young as 14 years old to adults, who were allegedly trafficked on the site while Backpage was knowingly facilitating prostitution.
One year-old is alleged to have been forced to do in-calls at hotels. A second teenager was allegedly told to "perform sexual acts at gunpoint and choked" until she had seizures, before being gang-raped. A third victim, advertised under the pseudonym "Nadia" was stabbed to death, while a fourth victim was murdered in , and her corpse deliberately burned.
The lawyer for Backpage operations manager Andrew Padilla stated that his client was "not legally responsible for any actions of third parties under U. He is no more responsible than the owner of a community billboard when someone places an ad on it,"  . The State of Texas was also considering a money laundering charge pending its investigation.
Lacey and Larkin were charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. Backpage general counsel Liz McDougall dismissed the raid as an "election year stunt" which wasn't "a good-faith action by law enforcement", and stated that the company would "take all steps necessary to end this frivolous prosecution and will pursue its full remedies under federal law against the state actors who chose to ignore the law, as it has done successfully in other cases.
He posited that AG Harris was more interested in the publicity from the arrests for political gain than in enforcing a law she had previously admitted was unenforceable by individual states as specified in section But the attorney general of California has managed the feat.
By charging Carl Ferrer, the chief executive of Backpage. Numerous previous court ruling and decisions were cited in the Demurrer supporting this position. The AG filed its response to the Demurrer on 4 November Backpage Attorneys filed their reply in support of the Demurrer on 10 November On 16 November Judge Michael Bowman of the Superior Court of the State of California issued a tentative ruling in this case supporting the position of Backpage and granting its request for dismissal of the case.
Bowman dismissed all the charges in the complaint, stating that:. Congress has precluded liability for online publishers for the action of publishing third party speech and thus provided for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial.
Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not this Court, to revisit. They were charged with pimping and money laundering. Lawyers for Backpage responded that the charges rehashed the earlier case that had been dismissed on December 9, Jim Grant, an attorney for Backpage said: Since April , the U. Over the ensuing months, Backpage raised and PSI rejected numerous objections to the subpoena, including that the subpoena was impermissibly burdensome both in the volume of documents PSI demanded and in its intrusion into constitutionally-protected editorial discretion.
PSI subsequently issued a shorter document subpoena with only eight requests but broader in scope and also targeting Backpage. PSI applied in March for a federal court order to enforce three of the eight categories of documents in the subpoena. In August , the U. District Court in D. Backpage immediately filed an appeal and sought a stay, which the district court denied, then filed emergency stay petitions with the U.
Court of Appeals for the D. Circuit, and Supreme Court. Each appellate court issued temporary stays to consider whether to grant a stay pending appeal,  but eventually denied the emergency stay requests,  However, the D. Circuit agreed to expedite the appeal, and one of its judges who considered the emergency stay said he would have granted it. Backpage has continued to pursue its appeal despite producing thousands of documents to PSI pursuant to the District Court order.
PSI scheduled a Subcommittee hearing regarding Backpage. S 1st Circuit Court of Appeals that a suit filed in Boston federal court in against Backpage by three women who claimed that Backpage was responsible for them being forced into illegal sex transactions.
The Court of Appeals held that Backpage could not be held liable as the "publisher or speaker" for postings on its site by third parties in accordance with the protections provided to website operators under section of the CDA. Also on 9 January , prior to its scheduled hearings on Backpage the next day, the PSI released a report that accused Backpage of knowingly facilitating child sex trafficking.
Shortly thereafter, Backpage announced that it would remove its adult sections from all of its sites in the United States. In late-March and early-April , courts in Massachusetts and Florida affirmed that Backpage's facilitation of sex trafficking fell outside of the immunity granted by Section safe harbors.
The latter ruling argued that because Backpage "materially contributed to the content of the advertisement" by censoring specific keywords, it became a publisher of content and thus no longer protected. On 6 April , Backpage was seized by the United States Department of Justice , and it was reported that Michael Lacey's home had been raided by authorities. On 12 April , Carl Ferrer, the chief executive officer CEO of Backpage pleaded guilty to both state and federal charges, including but not limited to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution and money laundering.
Also on 12 April , the company Backpage pleaded guilty to human trafficking , announced the Texas Attorney General. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the Australian sports television series, see Back Page Live. This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles, condensing it, or adding or removing subheadings. Retrieved 20 January Retrieved 27 May Retrieved 1 March The Ultimate Guide to Backpage Ads 1st ed. Retrieved 16 September