Misguided Senators Propose Plan To Make It Harder For Law Enforcement To Track Down Human Trafficking Online

from the you're-doing-it-wrong dept

We've been covering the bizarre (mostly publicity-motivated) attacks on the Village Voice's Backpage.com site for a while. Those efforts have been ramping up, and every day I seem to get press releases from some ridiculous group that is apparently coordinating this misguided and dangerous attack. It appears that some of the silly publicity stunt is working, with Senators Richard Blumenthal, Mark Kirk, John Cornyn, Sheldon Whitehouse and Marco Rubio all supporting a "resolution" demanding Backpage take down its "adult entertainment" section. We've seen this battle before. Craigslist went through the same ridiculous moral panic a few years ago. And all it did was drive all of this traffic elsewhere -- with a lot of it settling on Backpage. Of course, that effort was led by then Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, before he became a Senator -- so it's no surprise that he's involved in this pointeless effort as well.

Here's the thing: we already know how this game plays out. You can browbeat these companies into shutting off this part of their forums against their own will, and many of them will cave. And you'll celebrate victory, but as you do that, everyone will be rapidly exploring alternatives, which most will move to pretty quickly. In other words, such a crackdown won't do a damn thing to stop people from actually being exploited. Even worse, in pressuring that content to scatter, it becomes much more difficult for law enforcement to track down and arrest the real criminals who are abusing the system. But nothing in getting Backpage to turn off this section actually helps to stop such trafficking/prostitution. It just makes life that much more difficult for law enforcement, since they now need to do a lot more work to track down the people abusing these laws. I fail to see how that's a positive result, as the government has insisted.

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  1. icon
    Torg (profile), 3 May 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re: I agree...but also disgree

    If doing nothing produces a more positive result than doing something, then yes, you're supposed to do nothing, no matter how bad inaction makes you feel. This'll have as much effect on human trafficking as blocking The Pirate Bay has on piracy.

    Now, if you have the technical knowledge to find out where the people advertising on the site are, or you have some other way to contribute positively, then by all means try to make law enforcement's job easier. But the situation is not as simple as "doing something is better than doing nothing".

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