NYTimes Columnist Stirs Up A Controversy That Will Only Drive Human Trafficking Further Underground

from the dangerous-ideas dept

You may recall a couple years ago that a bunch of politicians, led by state Attorneys General, went on a huge grandstanding campaign against Craigslist, because some people were using Craigslist for prostitution -- including some human trafficking. As we noted at the time (repeatedly), Craigslist was incredibly cooperative with law enforcement, and smart law enforcement officials actually used Craigslist as a tool to help discover, track down and arrest those who were breaking the law. But, rather than recognize that Craigslist was a useful tool, a huge media campaign was set off, leading Craigslist to shut down its "adult services" section, despite plenty of legal uses.

Of course, exactly as we predicted, the people who were previously using Craigslist for illegal reasons didn't magically disappear. They just shifted to other sites. One popular one was Backpage, owned by Village Voice Media, publishers of the famed alternative newspaper The Village Voice. Unlike Craigslist, Backpage told the grandstanders that it wouldn't back down. It noted that it cooperates with law enforcement, and that it understands the law and why it's not liable for the actions of its users. A lawsuit filed against the company resulted in Backpage being declared legal.

You would think, maybe, that the media and the granstanders would get the message. But, no, they just keep at it. Nicholas Kristoff at the NY Times recently posted a ridiculously silly column, which first "outs" Goldman Sachs as a minority investor in Village Voice Media (leading GS to sell all its shares before the article went to press, despite it having nothing to do with how the company operates), and then goes on to insist that the owners of the site must be "held accountable."

This is, to put it plainly, stupid. Kristof even acknowledges that the real way to stop human trafficking and underage prostitution is to have "prosecutors... focus more on pimps and johns." You know how they can do that? By using sites like Backpage to collect evidence and to find out who's actually responsible. But, immediately after that, Kristof insists that:
Closing down the leading Web site used by traffickers would complicate their lives, and after so many years of girls being trafficked on this site, it’s time to hold owners accountable.
That's ridiculous. Two years ago, we were told that the "leading website used by traffickers" was Craigslist. And the same sort of idiotically short-sighted campaign closed down that part of the service, and it did nothing to complicate the traffickers lives, because they quickly moved on to a variety of other platforms, including some that don't cooperate nearly as closely with law enforcement as Craigslist did (and Backpage does today). If Backpage is pressured into stopping adult ads, then the traffickers will move on to other sites within hours -- and many will be less willing to cooperate. Blaming the service provider isn't just stupid and pointless, it's counterproductive. It's helping the very people that the grandstanders claim to be targeting.

It's really quite sickening. The best way to stop these awful acts is to go after those responsible. Adding some ridiculous (and probably unconstitutional) secondary liability to third parties doesn't help. It makes the problem worse. Kristof and others may have good intentions, but their simple (and confounding) inability to think more than a single step ahead is really disappointing. In an effort to do good, they're causing a tremendous amount of harm. Not only that, but they're advocating to set an awful precedent when it comes to secondary liability, taking away the basic principle that you don't blame the tool, you blame the person who actually is breaking the law. Kristof is an award-winning journalist, and clearly a very smart person. That he'd be so short-sighted on something like this -- and stoop to the level of trying to drag other companies through the mud -- is immensely disappointing.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Jeff Lewis, 8 Aug 2012 @ 4:07am

    Sex Trafficking

    Sex Trafficking Sex Slavery is used by many groups as a attempt to outlaw all prostitution around the world by saying that all women are victims even if they do it willing. This hurts any real victims because it labels all sex workers as victims.

    This is done by the media, aid groups, NGOís, feminists, politicians, and religious organizations that receive funds from the government. There are very strong groups who promote that all adult women who have sex are victims even if they are willing, enjoy it and go out of there way to get it. These groups try to get the public to believe that no adult women in their right mind would ever go into the sex business unless she was forced to do so, weather she knew it or not. They say that 100% of all sex workers are trafficking victims.

    They do this in order to label all men as sex offenders and wipe out all consensual prostitution. Which is what their real goal is. There is almost no one who challenges or questions them about their false beliefs. Therefore, the only voices you hear are of these extreme groups. These groups want to label all men as terrible sex offenders for seeing a willing adult woman. No one stands up to say this is foolish, the passive public says nothing.

    These groups even say that all men who marry foreign women are terrible sex predators who take advantage of these "helpless foreign women wives".

    These groups believe that two adults having consensual sex in private should be outlawed. Since they believe that it is impossible for a man to have sex with a woman without abusing the woman in the process.

    A key point is that on the sidelines the prostitutes themselves are not being listened to. They oppose laws against prostitution. But no one wants to listen to the prostitutes themselves. Only to the self appointed experts that make up numbers and stories many of which have never met a real forced sex slave or if they did it was only a few. The media and government never ask the prostitutes themselves what would help them in terms of laws

    Mostly, the police found and arrested adult prostitutes and pimps. When the police go after underage prostitutes they mostly find and arrest adult prostitutes and johns. Why are the police wasting their time on adult prostitutes? Instead of spending that time going after underage prostitutes?

    Why arenít the police finding millions of children forced against their will to have sex for money? Because their arenít millions of them. And what proof do they have that they were forced against their will?

    Why are the police just finding, and arresting consensual adults? Because the child victims either donít exist or are very few in number. They use the excuse of children to arrest consenting adults. If they are just after children, they why donít they leave the consenting adults alone? The police arrest the consenting adults that they find Why?

    If there is no children involved Ė why arrest the consenting adult prostitutes, johns, and pimps? They are no children involved? Why are the police wasting their time on adult prostitutes? Instead of spending that time going after underage prostitutes? Because the police are mostly after adult prostitutes, not children.


    When the police arrest customers of prostitutes and the prostitutes themselves:
    They try to get the adult women prostitutes to say that they were forced and victims of sex trafficking even though they werenít.
    These adult women just flat out say, ĎNope, thatís not whatís happening.í No one is forcing meĒ
    Then the U.S. Attorney general, senators, the police and government officials say:
    ďWe have to help them realize they are victims,Ē
    They must be brainwashed by their pimps, and johns.
    They say that adult women do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves about sex, therefore
    The government must make all their decisions about sex and who they have sex with for them.
    SoÖ the police are trying to invent victims? Where no victim exist?
    The adult women say that no one is forcing them to work in prostitution and the police donít believe them?
    So the police want these adult women to lie? and the police are forcing the women to lie about being forced?
    I thought lying was wrong? And isnít it against the law to lie? -Not for the police, attorney general and other government officials.


    Sex trafficking is illegal and the pentities are very severe. It is very difficult to force someone to be a sex slave, they would have to have 24 hour guards posted and be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Have the threat of violence if they refused, and have no one notice and complain to the authorities or police. They would need to hide from the general public yet still manage to see customers from the general public and not have the customers turn the traffickers in to the police. They would need to provide them with medical care, food, shelter, and have all their basic needs met. They would need to have the sex slaves put on a fake front that they enjoyed what they were doing, act flirtatious and do their job well.
    They would have to deal with the authorities looking for the missing women, and hide any money they may make, since it comes from illegal activity. They must do all of this while constantly trying to prevent the sex slaves from escaping and reporting them to the police. They would need to prevent the general public from reporting them into the police. This is extremely difficult to do, which makes this activity rare.
    Here are some good websites about this:
    http://bebopper76.wordpress.com
    http://sextraffickingfacts.wordpress.com/
    http://sextraffic kingvictims.blog.com
    http://www.lauraagustin.com/
    http://sextraffickingtruths.blogspot.com/

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.