Secret Memos Show the Government Has Been Lying About Backpage All Along

Sealed memos fought over in federal court last week show authorities have known for years that claims about Backpage were bogus.


For nearly a decade, Backpage has been demonized by politicians, denounced in legislatures, and dramatically mischaracterized by the press, Hollywood, and well-funded activist groups. As early as 2010, top prosecutors from 21 states claimed the classified-ad platform was "exploiting women and children." In 2012 Washington state passed the first (but not last) law aimed specifically at toppling Backpage, and by 2015 U.S. senators were investigating the company.

Though the Department of Justice shut down in 2018, it still activates strong scorn in some corners. ("They were selling children," the California senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said in March.) Several founders and former executives of the company—arrested last year on federal charges of conspiracy, facilitating prostitution, and money laundering—are now awaiting a 2020 trial, as they try to fend off prosecutors eager to seize their assets and disqualify their lawyers.

"For far too long, existed as…a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike," said then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions upon their April 2018 arrest. U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Strange alleged that Backpage made "hundreds of millions" by "placing profits over the well-being and safety" of victims.

Claims like these have always been bogus. Now, thanks to memos obtained by Reason, we have proof that prosecutors understood this all along.

A Tale of Two Memos

In April 2012, two federal prosecutors sent their boss a memo about Backpage, the site that had, since 2004, been operating like a parallel Craigslist. What would unravel over the course of the 24-page document contradicts almost everything we've heard from federal authorities about Backpage since.

The memo—subject: " Investigation"—reveals that six years before Backpage leaders were indicted on federal criminal charges, prosecutors had already begun building a "child sex trafficking" case against the company. But this case was hampered by the fact that Backpage kept trying to help stop sex trafficking.

"Information provided to us by [FBI Agent Steve] Vienneau and other members of the Innocence Lost Task Force confirm that, unlike virtually every other website that is used for prostitution and sex trafficking, Backpage is remarkably responsive to law enforcement requests and often takes proactive steps to assist in investigations," wrote Catherine Crisham and Aravind Swaminathan, both assistant U.S. attorneys for the Western District of Washington, in the April 3 memo to Jenny Durkan, now mayor of Seattle and then head federal prosecutor for the district. Vienneau told prosecutors that "on many occasions," Backpage staff proactively sent him "advertisements that appear to contain pictures of juveniles" and that the company was "very cooperative at removing these advertisements at law enforcement's request."

"Even without a subpoena, in exigent circumstances such as a child rescue situation, Backpage will provide the maximum information and assistance permitted under the law," wrote Crisham and Swaminathan.

Over the next year, their office would undertake a large investigation into Backpage's internal processes and potential criminality.

This included a "preliminary review of more than 100,000 documents," subpoena responses "from more than a dozen entities and individuals," interviews with around a dozen witnesses, and "extended grand jury testimony from an additional six witnesses," mainly Backpage employees. Still, it failed to produce "the kind of smoking gun admissions which we had hoped would propel this investigation to indictment," wrote Swaminathan and another assistant U.S. attorney, John T. McNeil, in a January 2013 memo.

This memo—subject: " Investigation Update"—and the earlier one from Crisham and Swaminathan would wind up being accidently sent by federal prosecutors to Backpage defense lawyers last year. But both would be ruled off-limits for defense use, placed under seal, and only subject to public courtroom discussion last week after prosecutors tried to sanction defendants for a few paragraphs from the memos appearing in a June Wired article.

"At the outset of this investigation, it was anticipated that we would find evidence of candid discussions among [Backpage] principals about the use of the site for juvenile prostitution which could be used as admissions of criminal conduct," wrote McNeil and Swaminathan in their 2013 update. "It was also anticipated that we would find numerous instances where Backpage learned that a site user was a juvenile prostitute and Backpage callously continued to post advertisements for her. To date, the investigation has revealed neither."

They recommended that bringing criminal charges would be unwise. But the matter didn't stop there.

Washington-based federal prosecutors kept trying to compel more internal documents from Backpage. A few people whose ads were posted on the site when they were underage began to sue (and lose) in civil court. In 2015, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart threatened sanctions against credit card companies that kept doing business with Backpage, forcing the company to sue for relief. Backpage won that one too, but not before being forced to first make ads free and then find alternative payment methods, like accepting checks and bitcoin, for ad payment (moves prosecutors will later use against them in the money laundering case).

Also in 2015, Congress passed the "Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation" (SAVE) Act relying almost exclusively on anti-Backpage rhetoric, and the Senate Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations started subpoenaing Backpage records and testimony. The following year, Kamala Harris (at that point still top prosecutor for California) twice had Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin arrested on (unsuccessful) pimping charges.

Backpage leadership started 2017 being hauled before Congress to testify on their supposed "knowing facilitation" of child sex trafficking and ended the year the subject of a propaganda film ("I Am Jane Doe") promoted by the likes of comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Meyers and narrated by actress Jessica Chastain. Josh Hawley—then the newly-elected attorney general of Missouri and now an anti-technology crusader in the U.S. Senate—also went after Backpage that year, saying it "directly and actively promoted illegal sex trafficking."

By the time the FBI raided Lacey and Larkin's homes, tossed them in jail, and seized the site in April 2018, few public figures would defend Backpage or those associated with it. Years of much-hyped horror stories about the site and heinous claims about its leaders had been coming from all angles—Democrats, Republicans, women's groups, religious groups, attorneys general, actor-activist Ashton Kutcher, state and national lawmakers, The New York Times, the McCain Institute, the FBI, movies, newspaper ads, billboards, and much more. The preferred narrative about the site was clear, and nearly impenetrable.

Which is why these memos from 2012–13 pose such a problem. They show that years' worth of hand-wringing and hysteria over Backpage has been built on lies.


"Backpage genuinely wanted to get child prostitution off of its site"

The core claim against Backpage has always been that it enables underage prostitution. Over time, this evolved from a more modest assertion—that any site allowing adult ads would inevitably attract some posts by minors—to claims that Backpage was uniquely negligent in this capacity, indifferent to the plight of victims, and perhaps even actively encouraging sex traffickers to use the site. ("We [tried to] make them realize it was not only legally but also morally wrong to sell children," but "they wouldn't hear of it," Cindy McCain told The Arizona Republic in 2016.)

Back in 2012 and 2013, federal prosecutors privately expressed a quite different outlook.

But first—lest anyone think the more recent rhetoric reflects changes at Backpage since 2013—it's important to note that most of the actions covered in the Senate investigative report and much of the subsequent criminal indictment come from this 2012–13 time period or earlier. And, since then, neither civil court cases nor a variety of official investigations has uncovered anything wildly different than what was found by the Washington-based U.S. attorneys.

In 2012, Crisham and Swaminathan seemed impressed by how cooperative Backpage was with police and other members of law enforcement. Backpage data offer "a goldmine of information for investigators," they noted. In general, staff would respond to subpoenas within the same day; "with respect to any child exploitation investigation, Backpage often provides records within the hour." Staff regularly provided "live testimony at trial to authenticate the evidence against defendants who have utilized Backpage," and the company held seminars for law enforcement on how to best work with Backpage staff and records.

"Witnesses have consistently testified that Backpage was making substantial efforts to prevent criminal conduct on its site, that it was coordinating efforts with law enforcement agencies and NCMEC [the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children], and that it was conducting its businesses in accordance with legal advice," wrote Swaminathan and McNeil in 2013. Furthermore, they noted, their investigation failed "to uncover compelling evidence of criminal intent or a pattern or reckless conduct regarding minors." In fact, it "revealed a strong economic incentive for Backpage to rid its site of juvenile prostitution."

Ultimately, it was their assessment that "Backpage genuinely wanted to get child prostitution off of its site."

Ernie Allen, then in charge of NCMEC, thought so too. He had told prosecutors he believed Backpage was genuinely trying to combat underage ads, although "use of the Internet to market commercial sex was so fluid that any system of moderation and reporting was destined to fail" (as prosecutors paraphrased).

Backpage executives—including CEO Ferrer and then-owners Lacey and Larkin (who sold Ferrer the company in 2015)—had been working closely with the quasi-governmental children's group to establish best practices. They weren't about to give up on all adult advertising, which Lacey and Larkin had been publishing in the back pages of their weekly print newspapers since the 1970s. But Backpage took to heart other steps suggested by authorities.

For instance, not only did all ads featured a "Report Ad" button, with an expedited process for folks reporting suspected sexual exploitation, but the site also featured prominent links to the NCMEC CyberTipline. And while most sections of Backpage were free for users, "Backpage followed Craigslist's policy, initiated at the suggestion of NAAG, of charging a fee for each adult services advertisement," something NAAG championed for its ability to reduce ad volume and yield evidentiary data for law enforcement.

In 2011, Backpage staff flagged 2,695 ads for NCMEC review, according to the NCMEC president's testimony before Congress. He also said that at the group's request, Backpage leaders had begun stepping up the number of reported ads

Later, Allen and NCMEC would insinuate that the increase was evidence of a spike in child sex trafficking and/or of Backpage being the biggest online proponent of it. But back then, Allen admitted Backpage had done more monitoring and proactive reporting than any other site in adult advertising.

Backpage seems to have been taking an especially cautious approach. Operations manager Andrew Padilla told moderators to flag any sex work ads where a poster looked to be under age 21, and in general to "be over-inclusive," according to the Washington-based prosecutors. They also note that, in many cases, not even the most careful moderators may be able to discern an ad subject's age.

Many adult ads used only partial photos. And some teens "may simply appear to look older" than they are, states the 2012 memo. "It is difficult for even trained investigators to conclude" age from photos, making it hard to say Backpage monitors should have been capable of this "extraordinarily difficult" task.

Interestingly, investigators found Ferrer had proposed authorities provide Backpage with phone numbers of those "known to be involved in juvenile prostitution," so it could use filters to flag and automatically report attempted use of those numbers. Such a system "might be more useful than just look at the pic and saying the model looks too young," Ferrer reportedly told Agent Vienneau in 2012. It could also help find minors no matter what part of the site—adult, services, dating, etc.—on which their ads were placed.

Authorities declined to follow up on Ferrer's idea. (McNeil and Swaminathan do suggest moderators should have been given more "specific criteria," whether this "be body fat, breast development, or other features," for determining from photos if someone is under age 18—a proposal that manages to come across both creepy and clueless.)

Later, critics would suggest that Backpage was uniquely reckless in its age verification processes. (The Senate report even claims the whole point of telling users they must be 18-plus to post was so minors would know to lie about their age.) But back in 2012, prosecutors admitted that Backpage measures "were standard across the tech industry and online content purveyors." Mandating "additional age verification protocols or procedures is both impractical" and a "limitation on free speech," which implemented broadly "would bring online business to a halt, as it threatens the very fabric of the internet."


Illegality of Adult ads "is not so plain" 

Since child sex trafficking charges were a non-starter, prosecutors wondered if a case could be made that Backpage recklessly promoted and profited off of prostitution. While prostitution itself is not a federal crime, sex for pay is criminalized in most of the country, so using a tool of interstate commerce (the internet) with the intent to facilitate prostitution could count.

But there was a problem with this theory, too. Several, in fact.

"Remarkably," the 2013 memo said, no one in or outside Backpage would "admit the company knowingly accepted adult prostitution advertisements."

This wasn't the only surprise for the investigators—who, to their credit, seemed willing to actually check their initial assumptions. In so doing, they highlighted how many supposedly illicit activities on Backpage may not have been illegal at all.

"As we are learning in this investigation, women posing in sexually suggestive poses, wearing virtually nothing and advertising various forms of sexual massage and other 'good times'" does not necessarily imply exploitation or even illegal prostitution, noted McNeil and Swaminathan:

Upon closer analysis of the adult web market, it is clear that there are many adult services which come very close to prostitution, but which are lawful. For instance, it is legal to advertise to pay actors to have sex in a film….It is also legal to offer or solicit sex, so long as it is not in exchange for money. Thus, Backpage permitted express references to sexual acts in its adult personal section. It is also legal to offer to be a 'sugar daddy' [and] likewise, strippers or escorts may be paid to simulate sex for a fee, to dance or perform solo sex acts, to provide companionship, and to give 'sensual' massages. There are no rules which prohibit strippers or genuine escorts from posing in sexually explicit positions or from giving hands-on therapy. While someone who has little experience with the adult services market may readily conclude that Backpage's escort advertisements offer prostitution services, such a conclusion is not so plain after one recognizes how much sexually explicit commercial conduct is lawful.

In any event, Backpage did try to ban outright illegal activity in ads. Overall, the company's conscientiousness and cooperation on this front presented "a very substantial hurdle to any prosecution," wrote McNeil and Swaminathan in 2013.

"In the course of introducing evidence about what Backpage did not do to monitor its site and exclude prostitutes, much evidence would be admitted about what Backpage did do to monitor its site," they said. The court would likely hear about the "express warnings placed on the site and circulated in the company prohibiting advertisements for illegal conduct" and "all sorts of evidence about what Backpage did to work with law enforcement to stop child trafficking."

If the Justice Department did want to claim Backpage was reckless, the memo suggested, it could possibly use Backpage's ample responses to subpoenas and reports to NCMEC to establish the company knew that minors were sometimes advertised and that this would continue.

This is not a standard we apply to other digital platforms or to other crimes. People are robbed, assaulted, defrauded, extorted, harassed, discriminated against, and much more via digital classified ads, social media, and popular apps of all sorts. These cases wind up yielding criminal cases and suits in civil court, sometimes very serious ones. But few suggest that this means Yelp, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, etc. should cease entirely.

It also offends on a basic level of fairness. Because Backpage worked so closely with authorities to stop bad actors, it had given the government all the goods it needed to prosecute—even as prosecutors ignored the many sex-ad hubs that weren't working with authorities.

"reliance on this type of evidence would be extraordinary in a criminal case"

Since nabbing Backpage on knowingly facilitating illegal sex work would be a stretch, the 2013 memo suggested that the best way to prosecute might be to bring conspiracy and money laundering charges.

This is what the Justice Department did last year. And much in the current theory of prosecution against Lacey, Larkin, and other former Backpage leaders is laid out in the 2013 memo.

Money laundering charges would "not focus on Backpage as a publisher of on-line advertisements or as a co-venturer with pimps, but as a launderer of funds derived from adult prostitution," the memo said. But, again, the authors ran into "several substantial proof issues" in showing that any promotion, facilitation, or funding from prostitution per se was intentional.

Proving "the company knew that the advertising fees being paid by adult 'escorts' were criminally derived property" would be difficult, they noted. So too proving that any particular $10,000 came from prostitution proceeds (as required by some money laundering statutes).

"We would be required to rely on expert testimony, statistical analysis and inferences to prove that," they wrote. "While relying on such evidence in a civil case may be common, reliance on this type of evidence would be extraordinary in a criminal case."

The Justice Department could try for conspiracy to commit money laundering charges, suggest the prosecutors. But again, there's the intent problem. The state would "be left to argue inferences of a specific criminal intent in the face of evidence that Backpage was engaging in extensive monitoring" to the opposite effect.

The most concrete evidence available of intent to promote adult prostitution were two short statements made by executives. In 2011, board member Don Bennett Moon allegedly said he could not "deny the undeniable" when pressed whether the site was sometimes used to promote prostitution.

That same year, during a meeting between Backpage leadership and NCMEC, Ernie Allen was—by his own account—pressing Backpage to get rid of all "Adult" ads when Michael Lacey said that adult prostitution was none NCMEC's business. According to the memo, "Allen responded that 'at least you know what business you are in,' to which Lacey did not reply."

The memos suggested that these statements might work for proving intent but were not much to go on. Doing so would raise "substantial issues" of concern and amount to relying on "inferences drawn from obtuse statements and silences to prove an element of the offense."

Nonetheless, these statements would find their way into the Senate investigation of Backpage and the current criminal indictment. This is the sort of iffy evidence that everyone decided to run with.


Politics Over Protection

The memos and the investigation that produced them should have tamped down enthusiasm for the crusade against Backpage. By almost all accounts, the most productive relationship between Backpage and those in power was a symbiotic one, in which the site served as a partner in preventing and punishing exploitation.

Instead, officials kept pursuing sanctions against Backpage and spreading tales of alleged depravity among its staff.

Since the time when the memos were first drafted, officials have figured out ways to frame any positive parts of Backpage operations into legal liabilities and points of public horror. The meetings with NCMEC and the efforts to help police? Proof that Backpage knew of the problem. Preventing explicit offers of sex for money? The Senate said that was just Backpage wanting to "conceal the true nature" of ads. Filtering out open-to-interpretation words? Banning underage ads? Same, said the senators. Their report portrayed the fact that Backpage used moderation at all as some sort of seedy ploy.

Requiring card payments for adult ads—as NAAG suggested, since cards can be traced—was spun as a deliberate effort to profit off exploitation. Accepting bitcoin after Dart threatened card companies? Evidence of subterfuge. Accepting checks after the Dart harassment? That let prosecutors tie specific ad buys to real identities and transactions, thus helping them fulfill a previously-lacking element necessary for money laundering charges.

In effect, everything the company did to enhance protection and legality was twisted into evidence of criminality and moral failure. And, for years, folks have promoted these topsy-turvy explanations. Yet in these 2012 and '13 memos—in statements not made for political posturing—we see something else entirely.

Backpage lawyers in the criminal case have been barred from using the memos as part of their clients' defense. The previous judge handling the case (who recused himself) agreed with the prosecution that the memos, which had been filed under seal in the Western District of Washington, must remain sealed and that the defense must destroy its copies.

At an August 19 hearing, Judge Susan M. Brnovich ruled that they will stay that way. But Brnovich denied the state's request to sanction defendants over quotes from the memos appearing in the June Wired story.

At the hearing, lawyers for defendants had pointed out that there were months when the memos were not under seal and that many people had viewed or had access to them both before and during that time. In issuing her order, Brnovich agreed that the memos had "clearly been distributed to many people," including "other people that the government was working with," and said any suggestion Backpage defendants or lawyers had supplied the memos to Wired was pure "speculation."

Brnovich did not rule last week on defendants' motion to dismiss the case. For now, the trial is scheduled to start on May 5, 2020.

It's worth noting that since Backpage was seized by the feds (April 2018), and the federal law against prostitution ads became law (later that month), we've seen cops across the country complain that it's harder to find and prosecute cases involving underage prostitution. Federal "rescue" numbers are also down in recent years, as are the total number of sex trafficking of children prosecutions by the feds.

Some will call this evidence that shutting down Backpage actually did put a dent in trafficking. But research on the online ad market says that after an initial drop last spring, adult ads levels have rebounded. And since the vast majority of these platforms employ no more stringent age-verification tools than Backpage did, whatever amount of ads for minors got through on Backpage is also likely getting through now.

Cops can still peruse these sites, as they did with Backpage. But the adult ad market is now more decentralized and thus harder to monitor, and has also undergone some switching to encrypted or just less visible platforms (or, alternately, moved to mainstream platforms like Instagram but with more tame public posts). More importantly, many of these other sites don't proactively report, provide data, and work with law enforcement like Backpage did.

With's shutdown, "we have taken a major step toward keeping women and children across America safe," Jeff Sessions claimed when the site was seized.

Reading these memos, it seems clear the government put the political usefulness of a crusade against a caricatured evil tech company above the genuine safety of American women and children. Soundbite salvation came at the cost of actually fighting endangerment, exploitation, and abuse.

NEXT: Ex-Sheriff and Failed Senate Candidate Joe Arpaio Announces He Will Run for Maricopa County Sheriff Again

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  1. Secret Memos Show the Government Has Been Lying About Backpage

    reason…best porn site eva!

    1. I am making 10,000 Dollar at home own laptop .Just do work online 4 to 6 hour proparly . so i make my family happy and u can do

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    2. The early feminists presented feminism as an argument for all the liberties that men enjoy, and I agreed with that premises. But it appears that they have used it to instead oppress the liberties of others. The obsession with child sex trafficking, as evidenced by backpage and the Kraft fiasco in S. Florida, appears targeted more at oppressing the liberties of others. Isn’t this all a case of women dictating to men and other women what they can do with their own bodies, the same complaint the feminists lodge against patriarchy, “women as property” and abortion? If people generally have a right to do with their own bodies as they desire, then why the obsession with sex between consenting adults? Unless…it is women attempting to maintain a monopoly on the source of satiating the sexual appetite of men (specifically “their” men) and alternative sources for that satiation (other women). They cannot recruit the Judeau Christian admonitions, as those were the source of their own oppression. So they fabricate an argument around the interest of children.

      1. Um, are you suggesting that Jeff Sessions (and lots of other conservative men) are feminists? First wave feminists may be guilty of some of what you suggest, but they’re not the primary drivers; men (mostly self-proclaimed social conservatives) are.

    3. The only reason they want prostitution to bew illegal is they all are knowingly or unknowingly helping the sex slave market. If they really wanted it to end they would a legalize prostitution b regulate and license sex working as courtesans and stop considering it a crime. this would end most of the sex trafficking industry because only women who wanted to do it could. also this would makje it safer for everyone involved

  2. If we can’t trust our benevolent government overlords to tell the truth, then who the hell can we trust?

    1. We just need to elect the right benevolent government overlords

      1. BUT OF COURSE lol

      2. If you don’t vote for the lizards, the wrong lizard might get in.

    2. “f we can’t trust our benevolent government overlords to tell the truth, then who the hell can we trust?”

      Like our founders said, trust in God. Or trust your own eyes, ears and mind. Our founders knew to never trust the people in government. That’s why we have divided power with checks and balances. Unfortunately, many in government are engaging in what would be illegal anti-trust activities, where they collude with people in the other branches, to screw the rest of us.

    3. Seems like almost anyone who isn’t part of our “benevolent” government overlords, clearly.

      1. I’ll add that part of the definition of “overlord” is “one who can’t be trusted” and if it isn’t then it should be.

  3. Nothing like big government going well out-of-its-way, and even lying, to promote, and enforce, puritanical ideas on personal conduct.

    1. Well put — And this is one position I do agree with the Democrats on. Republicans sometimes do go way too far being puritanical dictators.

      Not to say Democrats haven’t done the same in being filthitanical (i.e. Forcing people to make fag cakes).

      1. I think that in this case it was a truly bipartisan effort.

        1. I disagree. The Democrats have a sex problem….. Clinton, Weinstein, Epstein.

          Perhaps Backpage’s real offense was helping law enforcement stop child prostitution and trafficking. The Democrats couldn’t afford to have anyone cutting off their supply or revealing their criminality.

          The Democrats always accuse others of what they are doing. We’ve recently learned that the FBI and DOJ is in Clinton’s pocket. Why wouldn’t they go after Backpage and eliminate the threat while also learning about any networks that they can exploit.

          1. “We’ve recently learned that the FBI and DOJ is in Clinton’s pocket.” — That wouldn’t/doesn’t surprise me the least bit. That was my first reaction/thought when reading this article.

            Also noticed that every pardon Trump did was an Obama administered “political prisoner”. I truly believe Democrats are Witch-Hunters and Salve-Owners to their very core and the way particular people were pigeon-holed was appalling; just like the witch-hunt on Trump and his “rumored” Russian collusion.

  4. Soundbite salvation came at the cost of actually fighting endangerment, exploitation, and abuse.
    Why do real work (hard), when you can do phony work, (easy)?

  5. promoted by the likes of comedians Amy Schumer

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

    1. actor-activist Ashton Kutcher…

      When you’ve lost Ashton Kutcher…

  6. “Allen responded that ‘at least you know what business you are in,’ to which Lacey did not reply.”

    And at least we know what NCMEC’s purpose is.

  7. …Backpage staff proactively sent him “advertisements that appear to contain pictures of juveniles” and that the company was “very cooperative at removing these advertisements at law enforcement’s request.”

    Who are you going to believe? Jeff Sessions and Kamala Harris in their public, pandering declarations or the task force specific to investigating the case in its internal communications?

    1. What’s with the idea that exonerating information can be placed “under seal” and not be able to be used by the defense? Isn’t the government’s failure to provide such information grounds for convictions being overturned?

      1. If the convictions get overturned, that’s still OK with the prosecutors, because the process is the punishment.

  8. You mean the government…lied to me???

    1. There is no documented instance in which the government didn’t lie to you.

      Always assume everything coming from the government is lies piled on lies. You will be wrong less than 1% of the time.

      1. I see someone has been working on their probability math.

    2. I watched the Jane Doe documentary. Guess how the girls suing Backpage were located and saved from their forced sexual slavery?
      They were found by parents or police by searching Backpage!
      One mom even used Backpage to set up a “date” with her daughter and grabbed her back. (the daughter ran away back to her captors a few times after that before getting out of the situation.)

    3. “you mean the government.. LIES to me?

      fixed it fer yez…….

      the lying ain’t over.

    4. Really. It’s tempting, when put under oath, to answer “I would no more lie to the government than the government would lie to me.” But the standard quash for improv is “Don’t be cute!”

    5. What possible conditions could lead anyone to conclude that the United States Government has ever lied to them?
      Why, the US Government has never been known to lie about anything, ever! Furthermore ONLY people of the highest integrity and moral fiber have ever been employed by thuh gubnit ..
      Remember, Truth, Justice and the American Way as referenced by SUPERMAN!
      If you don’t believe in Superman you obviously don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy and I most certainly did receive cold, hard cash from the Tooth Fairy even if she was my mom.

  9. This is just disgusting.

    1. Let’s get real though. Syphilis and/or herpes-related sores inside the urethra is probably more disgusting. If you have ever visited backpage’s personals it was vastly different than a site like craigslist. Backpage was 100% obvious adverts for hookers. It’s a health crisis. Until it is done like those counties in NV where you are license and bonded, insured, and have inspections it shouldn’t be legal. People complain about an attack on sex workers. Meeting someone off of backpage is the perfect way to get attacked.

      1. Talk about missing the moral of the story. Of course you couldn’t read it could you?

        1. I read it. It is reminiscent of how they handled obscenity cases. With that said backpage should have shut down the personals section once they realized it was being used for nefarious purposes. Instead they allowed it and relied on section 230 immunity. When the cops say there is a problem and start asking questions you then remove the problem. If they would have closed 1 section they would still be up. Not defending the government at all on this one, but if I know how this system works against them why didn’t their lawyers?

          1. If you read the article as you claim then it’s definitely a reading comprehension problem on your part. Let me see if I can help you see beyond your blinding ideology.
            This article is about prosecutor’s and politicians (most of whom were former prosecutors) lying to the public about their reason for bringing criminal charges against Backpage, a website that has been proven to reduce harm to sex workers.

            Under the dishonest claim of “helping the children” they took away the best tool law enforcement had to help children, (as the police and DOJ themselves stated) while forcing more adult sex workers on to the street and into the shadows where they were they must make more high risk transactions without the benefit of online screening or legal recourse if things go sideways. They then went on to eviscerate the 1st amendment with their attack on section 230, once again invoking “the children!” chill speech across the internet while further harming sex workers in the process.
            You don’t understand section 230 at all. It has nothing to do with how obscenity cases were/are handled and you show a stunning level of ignorance with that claim.
            Section 230 did not provide “immunity” to anyone committing a crime as you claim. Anyone directly involved in prostitution or trafficking was still liable under section 230. It simply provided protection to third party platforms. To place it in non-internet terms you can understand, eviscerating section 230 is like holding car manufactures and the freeway builders criminally liable for a bank robbery that involved a car. Airplane manufacturers criminally liable when some idiots want to fly that plane into a building.
            Backpage didn’t decide close “one section” both because it would harm both child and adult sex workers (see above) and Lacey and Larkin don’t share your totalitarian slaver view towards free speech as expendable.
            That prosecutors knowing all this (as shown in the documents above you did not understand) and still went forward with their attack in nominally Lacey and Larkin, but actually sex workers and the 1st amendment shows how morally bankrupt they are. That pigfuckers like yourself defend their war on the Constitution, sex workers and “the children” proves how dangerous sexual repression and blind obedience to authority can be.
            Your earlier prejudiced and inaccurate comment about “sex workers being diseased” shows your sexual ignorance, however criminalizing prostitution has been proven to increase STI among dirty amateurs who are too sexually ignorant to always use protection with strangers due to “LOVVVVVE!” Sex workers depend on their sexual hygiene and health to earn an income and are not willing to through that away over some drunken one night stand the way amateurs do. They are not going to place their income at risk over some fantasy about sex as only monogamous reproduction.

  10. It’s obscene the way the feds are lusting after the assets of a 15 year-old website, the merest fig leaf to cover their naked theft of the enterprise. Is there a number I can call to report a rape?

  11. Never cooperate with the government.

    1. I wouldn’t go so far as to 100% subscribe to the axiom but absolutely would advise anyone considering of doing so to have a plan in place in case the government decides to pin whatever it is you’re whistleblowing about on you.

  12. Judges seem confused… You’re supposed to be required to hand over exculpatory evidence, not hide it and deny ability to use it if they get it anyway. Ridiculous ruling.

    1. “Sorry, the only evidence this court will allow is the stuff that makes you look guilty.”

      Fair trial my ass.

  13. During same period of time the Obama Dept. of Justice was using Operation Chokepoint to shutdown companies operating in 3 dozen perfectly legal lines of business that offended Obama’s sensibilities. They involved the Treasury Dept. and others to blackmail banks and credit card processing companies to stop doing business with companies in those lines of business or face intensive federal audits of various types on a unrelenting basis until they complied.

    1. I remember when that kind of sorry sounded like conspiracy.

  14. I just quickly skimmed over this article so I may have missed it but does it say anywhere as to why the Feds went after if not for the reasons it claimed? Even if the motivations were bogus there had to have been some reason the Feds lied about why it was going after .

    1. Well, I dunno, have prosecutors ever previously gone off the rails in showing that they’re Tough On Crime?

      1. Not excusing the government, but backpage had a site with a section that people were using to traffic minors on. I’m speaking purely on a business mindset here. You close the section. That’s not even a moral decision. Morally, you still close that section. Instead, they kept it open, profited off of it, and complied with cops. Still, their business allowed for the trafficing of minors and they knew it. They said they wanted to stop it, but they kept that open. If you had a business that aided in the trafficing of minors what would you do? Would you keep that section open?
        We know how screwed up legal proceedings can happen. It’s not news to any of us. It is considered to be wisdom at this point. This was a fire they could have put out and didn’t.

        1. If they “profited from it” then from a “purely business mindset” you wouldn’t shut it down.
          Now, from a “moral” one you might but we don’t legislate morality, thus criminalizing Backpage’s failure to shut down that section reeks of doing just that.
          They seemed to be doing everything they could to stop that practice, to a level that many, if not most, internet sites wouldn’t go, yet, in your mind their only “crime” was not doing what “the cops” wanted them to do and that it is a good thing for them to be completely put out of business to send a message.
          Fuck you, slaver.

        2. Apple makes a product that people are using to help traffic minors. I’m speaking purely on a business mindset here. You stop selling iPhones. That’s not even a moral decision. Morally, you still stop selling iPhones. Instead, they kept selling iPhones, and profited off of it. If you had a business that aided in the trafficking of minors what would you do? Would you keep selling iPhones? The moral thing to do is shit your pants and prostrate yourself.

        3. The numbers of minors trafficked on backpage is unknown, but you can be certain it wasn’t 100%.

          Backpage existed to enable consenting adults to offer sexual services to each other, and short of going out of business, did everything possible to detect and expose any potential child trafficking that might be occurring.

          So why not shut down? Well, the answer becomes obvious – Backpage filled a need, and shutting down Backpage didn’t eliminate the need, it simply got dispersed to off-shore websites that are far less concerned with sex trafficking of minors. The officers that investigated Backpage and wrote the two memos discussed above said, literally, that backpage was doing everything possible to fight sextrafficking of minors, and was not only quick to react to government requests for information (which were always fully complied with to the limits provided by the law), but also was pro-active, sharing any ads with government law enforcement ads of anyone that appeared to be under 21 years old… Now, with backpage shutdown, the job of law enforcement just got harder.

    2. Nobody seems to know, but Kamala Harris was always a driving force. Couple that with Craig’s List Craig being from SF and friends with Willie Brown I can offer some ideas.

      1. I knew that Newmark was a lefty, but I didn’t know he was friends with Willie Brown. That lowers my opinion of him considerably.


  15. Government lying…you’re kidding me. Not our group of scumbags!

  16. Would Reason get in trouble if, hypothetically, someone were to post here that there are special places in Hell for some of the people mentioned? Asking for a friend.

    1. No, mentioning spiritual consequences won’t get Reason in trouble. It’s only problematic if you suggest temporal consequences like wood chippers.

      1. Do you have any idea how awful/rotten those people taste? Why would you do that to some poor innocent unsuspecting woodchipper?

  17. WHY does this whole sordid case smell so much like the just-breaking case of (former) officer Goins formerly of the Houstoin PD and his near total fabrication of “evidence” to get a warrant and conduct a no knockpredawn raid that killed two innocents.

    WHY IS IT that “law enforcement” so often fails o deal with real crime affecting real victims meanwhile millions are spend inventing “crime” that never happens.. crime like drug trafficking that did not exist (seems ossifer Goines had his “evidence” of bags of heroin in the trunk of his car, available to “find” during the mop-up once the two residents’ bodies were removed.

    Or how about that $Mn34 “investigation” that took nearly two years and produced NOT ONE SHRED of evidence of “collusion” in a recent presidential election….

    If LE have to make up stuff out of whole cloth to justify their existence, perhaps they simply should cease to exist…….

  18. The attack on Backpage was obviously an attack by the government to stifle free speech and control the internet. The authoritarians will use any lie any fear tactic any fabrication to assert their power. They are doomed to failure, just as their drug war is also a failure. People are no longer falling for their tricks and lies.

    1. I imagine it was an attempt to curb trafficking young ones and Section 230 getting in the way. Free speech probably didn’t have much to do with it because even politicians and law officers need to sell old lawn furniture. I wouldn’t be surprised if backpage was taken down as a warning to others to fall in line. Things like that work really well.

      1. Backpage was attacked by the Obama DOJ, and they ignored the reports filed by their own investigators in order to pound their chest and talk about how they took tough action against child sex traffickers.

        This is the same Obama DOJ that forced gun sellers to knowingly sell guns to straw purchasers along the border in an effort to learn about the flow of guns into Mexico… except, the Obama DOJ never coordinated with Mexico and just sat by and watched carloads of guns cross the border into Mexico. “But this was a program started by Bush DOJ!” Well, yes and no – Bush admin had a similar program, but bush admin coordinated with Mexican officials and shut it down when it was seen as unproductive – well before Obama took office. Team Obama blamed “rouge career administrators” for the effort.

        This is the same administration that refused to decide on tax-exempt status of conservative political groups for YEARS because if they simply denied the applications, the groups could appeal and likely win their appeal. Team Obama blamed “rouge career administrators” for the effort.

        This is also the same administration that took unverified opposition research from one political campaign and used it as justification for investigating the first campaigns political opponent despite never having verified any facts in the opposition research, even after millions of dollars and 2+ years of investigations.

        You would do well to not assume that the reasons given by the Obama administration for starting investigations are the truth.

        (Yes, Sessions oversaw the completion of the investigation, but I am pretty certain he was fed lies by his staff of career administrators about the merits of the case – like, for instance, I bet they didn’t tell sessions about the exculpatory reports the DOJ sealed.

  19. I wouldn’t be surprised if backpage was taken down as a warning to others to fall in line. Things like that work really well.

    It worked wonders in this case – now there are dozens of sites overseas, in addition to Twitter and Instagram and ENB pointed out, who took up the mantle and are advertising prostitution in the US. Only I doubt the website in the Philippines cares about a minor being trafficked in Omaha.

    1. Of course the website in the Philippines cares – how are they going to keep getting paid if the minor doesn’t keep being trafficked?

  20. If Backpage had a section where Jeffrey Epstein could advertise that he was looking for underage girls to go to an offshore island to have sexual encounters with rich and/or important men, then there would be a smoking gun.

    Perhaps a complication here was that some ads placed in Backpage that appeared to facilitate child prostitution were put there by law enforcement or advocacy groups.

    There is always a risk when police conduct undercover drug investigations that they might get into a gun battle with another police agency because of jurisdictional rivalries.

  21. These are the same people that many are begging to “take the guns first, go through due process second”? The Bill of Rights is dead. The founders’ republic is dead. The entire “justice system” is now rigged against justice and intent on destroying liberty in its quest for full tyrannical control over the former “We The People” of the USA!

  22. It should come as no surprise that Lacey and Larkin became the objects of extreme state oppression. Like Craigslist, BackPage disrupted the business model of newspapers, the industry that buys ink by the barrel. That was enough to attract extreme action by the media. Unlike Craigslist, Lacey and Larkin’s newspapers reported — accurately and critically — on both the foibles and profound corruption of politicians like McCain. They also reported on corrupt cops, often breaking the story before the corporate media.

    The daily newspapers hated both Craigslist and BackPage and the rest of the Internet. Corrupt politicians like McCain and cops also hated BackPage’s owners.

  23. thanks for sharing such a great post

  24. The simple way to look at this is freedom of speech. Backpage is merely offering advertising (i.e. speech). If people are engaged in sex trafficking, why doesn’t the government go after them? They should be fired for not doing their work, and going after Backpage instead. They might as well prosecute vehicle manufactures, hotel chains, and cities for providing vehicles, hotels and roads for facilitating sex trafficking. It’s like suing gun manufacturers for what criminals do with guns.

  25. The government didn’t want any competition in their child trafficking business.

  26. You can talk all day long about the first amendment and what-not, but the fact of the matter is that some of the people supposedly fighting trafficking are actually moles looking to shutdown those who stop it. You can choose to live in a world where everyone is who they say they are, but that doesn’t change the truth it only makes you ignorant of it.

  27. Thank you for posting the sealed exculpatory documents. I have downloaded them here in Canada out of the reach of US Federal Courts. Let me know if Reason is ordered to retract the documents and I will post them in Canada.

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  29. This is outrageous. How can ICE do something this wrong. They risk losing the only support they have left, conservative support.

    This man is a legitimate legal green card holder who has lived in the United States for 10 years, which means he is eligible to apply for, and be granted, U.S. citizenship, so he is really one of us. And, even if he were not one of us, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, in a court of law. So, how is ICE justifying, if this report is true, deporting an innocent man who is here legally, for a crime he did not commit.

    Every ICE agent and the heads of ICE need to be on their best behavior and this is not even close to good behavior. This is far from the best they can do.

    As far as the federal prosecutors involved in this fiasco are concerned, I think that no thinking American will be surprised at any new report of prosecutorial misconduct. Our nation’s prosecutors have a very long history of the worst possible forms of misconduct. Anyone still trusting prosecutors is either ignorant if history or they are idiots. Our Supreme Court needs to take decisive action to bring them back in line with due process, meaning simple fairness that is a Constitutional requirement.

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  32. Absolutely outrageous if true.

    My personal hero was Thomas Jefferson, and his deep seated distrust of governmental power. Stories like this one strengthen that.

  33. The moral is simple, cooperate with the government, get screwed.

  34. Baggage being just the tip of the iceberg, they have been lying about so many things like the ways to watch rugby world cup 2019 live online

  35. In today’s world, we cannot trust on anyone even if we want. Thats the life.
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