More Police Admitting That FOSTA/SESTA Has Made It Much More Difficult To Catch Pimps And Traffickers

from the i-mean,-who-could-have-predicted-it... dept

Prior to the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, we pointed out that -- contrary to the claims of the bill's suppporters -- it would almost certainly make law enforcement's job much more difficult, and thus actually would help human traffickers. The key: no matter what you thought of Backpage, it cooperated with law enforcement. And, law enforcement was able to use it to track down traffickers using online services like Backpage. Back in May we noted that police were starting to realize there was a problem here, and it appears that's continuing.

Over in Indianapolis, the police have just arrested their first pimp in 2018, and it involved an undercover cop being approached by the pimp. The reporter asks why there have been so few such arrests, and the police point the finger right at the shutdown of Backpage:

The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD’s vice unit, have just dried up.

The reason for that is pretty simple: the feds closed police’s best source of leads, the online personals site Backpage, earlier this year.

“We’ve been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down,” Daggy said. “I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a trap for human traffickers and pimps.”

Got that? Just as we noted, Backpage was an incredibly useful tool for police to find human traffickers and pimps. And... thanks to do gooders insisting that Backpage was to blame, now Backpage is gone, and the police can't find the traffickers and pimps any more.

This does not seem like the way to stop trafficking. It seems like the way to make it more difficult for law enforcement to stop it.

“With Backpage, we would subpoena the ads and it would tell a lot of the story,” Daggy said. “Also, with the ads we would catch our victim at a hotel room, which would give us a crime scene. There’s a ton of evidence at a crime scene. Now, since [Backpage] has gone down, we’re getting late reports of them and we don’t have much to go by.”

The article is quite long and detailed -- and, somewhat incredibly -- even gets Sgt. Daggy to admit that he used to complain about Backpage, and then realized how useful it was as a police tool:

Shortly after Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl, Daggy was invited to give a presentation at the Conference of Attorneys General.

“I was badmouthing Backpage big time,” he said, “because, you know, we were getting all of our arrests off there. We made over 60 arrests and caught four human trafficking cases during the Super Bowl.”

After he presented, Daggy says the website’s lawyer came up to speak to him.

“She came up to me and said, ‘You know, if we shut down, the ads will go offshore and someone else will pick them up,’” Daggy said.

That’s when Daggy started viewing Backpage as a trap – a useful tool for police trying to find victims who rarely self-report, and perpetrators who rarely come out in the open.

Of course, I'm still waiting to hear what all those people who supported SESTA/FOSTA have to say about all of this. Where is Amy Schumer, who put out a PSA in favor of SESTA/FOSTA, now that police are admitting that it's putting women's lives at risk, and that they're no longer able to track down and stop traffickers. Where are all the moralizing people who just happened to also be magically connected to the Hollywood studios who have always wanted to attack CDA 230, but suddenly found a "cause" to use in saying they needed to open up CDA 230 to stop sex trafficking. You guys made a problem much, much worse.


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 9:19am

    Wow, who could’ve seen that coming.

    I mean, aside from everyone with a lick of goddamn sense in their heads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 9:22am

    And we all know who to thank: out_of_the_blue and his chucklefuck buddies, who insisted that standing against SESTA and FOSTA meant that you supported prostitution. Congratulations, geniuses, your undying authoritarisexual desires have now made things harder for the very people you claimed to support. Fucking fantastic!

    (Then again when you consider that the true people they support are the RIAA it's not a surprise at all...)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Beechy, 9 Jul 2018 @ 9:51am

    Maybe the coppers havent made any arrests because shuttering that one website singlehandedly put an end to the world's oldest profession.

    More cynically, all the congress critters who pushed for this are going to be able to pat themselves on the back and claim that the law(s) led to a huge reduction in prostitution cases. The vast majority of their constituents won't realize that there's just as much pimping going on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:02am

    should have stood up and been counted before the stupid politicians brought this is, more to look good than be helpful!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:02am

    Oh, Hollywood and morals to blame. -- Find the new sites, then.

    "Yeah, we put a cop on this street corner and now all the drug-dealers and prostitutes moved to the next block! What are we to do?"

    Sheesh. Masnick, you're so rabidly fixated on your "libertarian" assertion that having crimes out in the open is better than stopping wherever can and then chasing after to next place, that you can no longer claim to be against drugs and prostitution. -- Indeed, you never say are against, just want corporations cut in on the profits while civilization is torn apart.

    Besides that, you now pick-and-choose to believe a COP? After railing hundreds of times how stupid they are? You're just a cheap opportunist with no morality except money, a follower of Mammon, indeed.

    Following your notion, the US was wrong to defeat Nazi Germany. They've only moved on to other places, right? Should have let them continue, no skin off any American's nose. -- Indeed, had we stood back and watched them invade Britain, those serfs would at least be rid of the older hereditary tyrants. -- And certainly the Palestinians wouldn't be troubled today. Yup, you've convinced me that inaction can be best.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    private frazer, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:04am

    you're looking at it wrong

    in the post-fact world its been an incredible success

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:15am

    Re: Oh, Hollywood and morals to blame. -- Find the new sites, then.

    Besides that, you now pick-and-choose to believe a COP? After railing hundreds of times how stupid they are?

    Fair enough. I don't believe him. He's just another lazy pile of pig shit, using a site that cannot fight back as an excuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    spikerman87, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:17am

    I'm sure the people who were in favor of this are ignorant and proud of themselves. They aren't the ones that were trying to find the offenders so they don't have a clue. They'll see it as a victory the rest of their careers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    I.T. Guy, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:19am

    Pimpin ain't easy

    "The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD’s vice unit, have just dried up"

    Apparently it is.

    “We’ve been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down,” Daggy said. “I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a trap for human traffickers and pimps.”

    It's just amazing how many people predicted this.

    "Where are all the moralizing people who just happened to also be magically connected to the Hollywood studios"

    They are onto attacking the next platform without any care of the consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:26am

    This is just proof that it worked!

    Seems to me if police are having a hard time arresting people then there must be less illegal activity.

    With no cheap place to advertise, pimps across he nation are simply going out of business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 11:01am

    Re: Pimpin ain't easy

    If we don't want to be moralizing, shouldn't we be calling these people "managers"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 11:01am

    Re: This is just proof that it worked!

    Or - and this seems far more likely - they moved to sites that are harder for law enforcement to find/track, which makes the pimps harder to find and thus arrest. You cannot arrest people you cannot find, after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 11:28am

    Re: Oh, Hollywood and morals to blame. -- Find the new sites, then.

    "Yeah, we put a cop on this street corner and now all the drug-dealers and prostitutes moved to the next block! What are we to do?"

    Sheesh. Masnick, you're so rabidly fixated on your "libertarian" assertion that having crimes out in the open is better than stopping wherever can and then chasing after to next place, that you can no longer claim to be against drugs and prostitution. -- Indeed, you never say are against, just want corporations cut in on the profits while civilization is torn apart.

    Besides that, you now pick-and-choose to believe a COP? After railing hundreds of times how stupid they are? You're just a cheap opportunist with no morality except money, a follower of Mammon, indeed.

    Following your notion, the US was wrong to defeat Nazi Germany. They've only moved on to other places, right? Should have let them continue, no skin off any American's nose. -- Indeed, had we stood back and watched them invade Britain, those serfs would at least be rid of the older hereditary tyrants. -- And certainly the Palestinians wouldn't be troubled today. Yup, you've convinced me that inaction can be best.

    There is so much factually wrong with this blather its hard to know where to begin. Here's a hint: starting off with "Sheesh Masnick" and ending with Godwinning is probably not going to win you any points here. Nor will spewing negative opinion with nothing to back it up. If you haven't noticed, it's Cushing and not Masnick who writes a daily "bad cop" story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 11:30am

    Re: Oh, Hollywood and morals to blame. -- Find the new sites, then.

    By your logic then Prohibition was a huge success, and the War on Drugs should also be a huge success based on the large number of people prosecuted for it.

    Just because you outlaw something doesn't mean that you can stop everyone from doing that thing, no matter how much enforcement and money you throw at it. Prostitution & sex trafficking are one of those things.

    As a guy who's never even drank alcohol his whole life despite being an atheist in his 30's I'd love it if alcohol and all the illegal drugs never existed. But I know that's not possible. Since I live in the real world and know the cause and effects on this issue I oppose the war on drugs, I'd also oppose bringing back prohibition, because I know both were miserable failures that just created more problems then they solved.

    The same is true with FOSTA/SESTA, it fails miserably and creates more problems then it fixes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 11:43am

    The grandstanders can't hear this over the deafening sound of them patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: This is just proof that it worked!

    If I - a plain ordinary citizen - don't know what sites to look for then it's a good bet law enforcement doesn't know either.

    On the other hand the pimps & traffickers can't publish the sites they're on without giving themselves away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    On the other hand the pimps & traffickers can't publish the sites they're on without giving themselves away.

    Or they can, you know, communicate with each other through back channels that the police either do not know about or cannot access. The whole point of opposing FOSTA/SESTA on this particular point was that the pimps and traffickers who were operating through Backpage would take their operations further underground, thus making them harder to find and arrest. The article points out that the cops have just now realized the truth of that point: They can’t find the pimps and the traffickers because they lost one of the best tools for finding them, and they lost it because of FOSTA/SESTA.

    Also: If you think the customers of those pimps and traffickers do not know about where to go for the services offered by said pimps and traffickers, you underestimate both sides of that equation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 12:30pm

    Re:

    "Yeah, we put a cop on this street corner and now all the drug-dealers and prostitutes moved to the next block! What are we to do?"

    Pimps and human traffickers already make themselves hard to find. Driving them further into the darkness of the underground will not help the police, no matter how big the flashlight.

    Masnick, you're so rabidly fixated on your "libertarian" assertion that having crimes out in the open is better than stopping wherever can and then chasing after to next place, that you can no longer claim to be against drugs and prostitution.

    In an ideal world, we would have no crime. (We would also not have you, so be grateful this is not an ideal world.) Until such time as we reach the no-crime ideal, the police are better served by criminals doing their “business” as out in the open as possible. A trafficker who uses a website that can be easily accessed by the public will have far less luck in evading authorities than a trafficker who uses a “darknet” website that remains a secret to all but a select few people.

    For the record: I am all for the legalization of drugs (let the government control distribution) and the decriminalization of prostitution (let the women work for themselves without threat of arrest).

    you now pick-and-choose to believe a COP? After railing hundreds of times how stupid they are?

    Police officers can be stupid, yes. That assertion does not make their job any less important, nor does it turn all LEOs into imbeciles.

    a follower of Mammon

    …the Chrono Trigger boss?

    Following your notion, the US was wrong to defeat Nazi Germany.

    Gotdamn, you Godwinned already?

    Yup, you've convinced me that inaction can be best.

    Nobody here is advocating for inaction on the part of the police. (Except for you, apparently.) We are pointing out that the police now have a much harder time tracking down human traffickers and pimps because the primary tool they were using to do that was shut down due to FOSTA/SESTA. Challenge does not equal inaction; it means that, despite any and all efforts, the police can no longer easily arrest a specific class of criminal thanks to a poorly-thought-out law that its creators claimed would help the police make those arrests. If anyone is guilty of “inaction” or “driving criminals to the next block”, the people behind FOSTA/SESTA look good for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 12:50pm

    Re: you're looking at it wrong

    Exactly! Just look at how much the crime rates have decreased!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is just proof that it worked!

    Unfortunately this is a case where it is easy to see that correlation does not equal causation. The officer cited doesn't say there aren't any pimps to go after, but that he can't find the pimps. He notes that the events they would normally bust, they cant bust because they only learn about them after the fact. In other words, its not that all the pimps went out of business, its that the pimps are just harder to find before they act.

    As we saw with Alcohol prohibition, and continue to see with drug prohibition, criminals have communications chains, and can operate in the shadows where law enforcement can not easily see them. They know it is happening. But without a way to find the crime in progress, or tie evidence of a crime back to a specific person, its impossible to arrest someone for it.

    Go watch the anti-rights police propaganda they call police procedurals. Specifically episodes where someone has to go undercover for a drug bust. All that effort they have to go through to get accepted? Its a mess because criminals actually try to avoid being caught.

    But convenience beats quality, every time. The internet tends to make people screw up op sec, and give themselves away. That's what Backpage represented, in addition to a way for non-exploited sex workers to screen clients, it was a trap for pimps exploiting women to be caught. Now its back to the undercover bullshit to find pimps, and its a lot harder, and puts both the exploited and the non-exploited at risk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 1:42pm

    Nothing worth saying..

    Why should I say anything? Its all been said and MANY others said it also..
    IT WONT GO AWAY..
    THERE ARE SOLUTIONS, but THIS ISNT ONE..

    This is worse then putting Drug addicted persons in JAIL, IT DONT SOLVE ANYTHING..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 2:02pm

    We should really learn that sometimes, just because it it popular doesn't mean it is good.

    The bill to allow the 9/11 survivors to sue Saudi Arabia, flew through Congress even with Congresspeople saying it wouldn't do anything because of international law. But the fear of being portrayed as against the survivors families made everyone sign off on a law that will do nothing but increase the heartache of these families when the government mislead and failed them yet again.

    Everyone wants headlines about trafficking and pimps being stopped, so lets twist the law into a pretzel to shut it down. We violated the law, we are trying to hold 3rd parties responsible, we're getting sex workers killed, exploited kids have no cops seeing them... was any of this worth the headlines? Probably yes because the public's attention span is about how long it takes to click like on facebook, so they will ignore the few 'isolated' cases where this worked against authorities until we get a trendy story with a cute blond white girl who is the victim then the outrage will be there. (Also isn't it disgusting that until it happens to a little white girl it isn't really a problem?)

    Sometimes bad things are bad & no law can fix it.
    Sometimes the law to fix is worse than the bad thing.
    Sometimes we have a system that works well, but baby needs a new pair of shoes to run for Congress so she'll waste millions of dollars & annoy courts to get good headlines, because no one reads the follow up story that is always on page 28 of section K in 2pt print.

    WE HAVE NO ACTUAL NUMBERS ABOUT SEX TRAFFICKING. (period full stop)
    There has been no independent study made, all of the cited numbers come from flawed data gathering & lets just multiply by 45 because we know we didn't see everything.

    Without their websites there is an actual growing bodycount of actual dead people who end up with bad clients.
    While not popular, decriminalization of sex work should happen.
    No matter how many times the bible belt screams about it, I'll just point out how many of their leaders have been caught with hookers.
    If everyone involved is of age & willing why do we care?
    If we restored the websites, they would be safer & the bad guys would be forced to use other platforms making them easier prey... and if that website is based in the US oh hey our law applies!!!!!!! And if we stop demonizing the websites perhaps they would consider resuming their assistance to Law Enforcement, which they offered freely before they were declared to be responsible for everything.

    If you don't like sex workers, don't use their services.
    They all aren't little foriegn children transported here against their will, many of them chose to do the work.
    Every single sex worker who saw a pimp turning out kids, would turn that bastard in (this would be more likely if the cops couldn't arrest them & demand sex as they often do now with the stupid ass laws).

    Sometimes adults do things we don't agree with, but lets stop pretending our moral wants should legally be enforced on others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 3:10pm

    There are lots of sites left like backpage

    Shit, there are other sites out there just like backpage and there always will be. Check out harlothub.com, looks like the next backpage to me. Growing daily as I can see Pretty straight forward. They can catch pimps and traffickers there as well as many others.
    I will say this much, the industry is not going anywhere just another ploy to take our rights away.
    So all of thease websites have gone oversees now. I doubt there will be any cooperation with law now. Harlothub for instance was a .com when it started
    Now it’s gone to a .nl and is hosted oversees it looks like
    When will thease politicians learn that there laws are doing more harm than good
    Smh

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 4:03pm

    Re: This is just proof that it worked!

    This is such an unbelievably shallow belief that I can't even tell if it's real.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 6:14pm

    Re:

    Either that or they were profiting from sex trafficking.

    It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the so-called "support" was shot full of lobbyists hired by crooks looking to protect their sex trafficking business.

    Especially given how all those supporters seem to have evaporated like water drops on a hot stove.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2018 @ 6:18pm

    Re: There are lots of sites left like backpage

    Sadly history has demonstrated that they learn only when they learn it is no longer acceptable and they will be held accountable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    techflaws (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 9:45pm

    Re: Re:

    "In an ideal world, we would have no crime. (We would also not have you, so be grateful this is not an ideal world.)"

    LOL!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    techflaws (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Oh, Hollywood and morals to blame. -- Find the new sites, then.

    "Yup, you've convinced me that inaction can be best."

    By pointing out the cops were *actively* browsing Backpage to identify and arrest bad guys? You're not very bright, are you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    carlb, 9 Jul 2018 @ 10:26pm

    Re: There are lots of sites left like backpage

    True, but it means that other infrastructure (such as Cloudflare) also becomes unavailable because someone made the mistake of building those tools in (or partially in) the USA.

    There are two (and likely only two) high-profile incidents of websites being turned away by Cloudflare management. One was Stormfront for its far right neo-Nazi style views. The other was Switter.at, a microblogging site designed by sex workers.

    The exodus of websites from USA to hosts in other countries should have been started when Snowden revealed the demise of the 4th Amendment. Unfortunately, webmasters were slow to react - hence the loss of useful, mainstream forums like Craigslist personals. Hopefully people have learned their lesson now, given the demise of the 1st Amendment, and will stop hosting anything stateside?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Alex (profile), 9 Jul 2018 @ 11:08pm

    I agree definitely concerning cloudflare especially after the cloud act was passed. There is no us company’s that will even touch website . But I have to say that there is hope
    A law suit has been filed and a federal judge will see (hopefully) how sesta/fosta has violated the 1st.
    All we can do is watch and see.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 10 Jul 2018 @ 6:12am

    Re: Oh, Hollywood and morals to blame. -- Find the new sites, then.

    "Yeah, we put a cop on this street corner and now all the drug-dealers and prostitutes moved to the next block! What are we to do?"

    More like:

    "We found a street corner where the drug dealers and prostitutes were hanging out, and when we sent a cop over, the local chamber of commerce was happy to tell us what we needed in order to arrest the dealers and pimps, even though it was making money from them being around. But now the dealers and pimps have moved to another corner whose chamber of commerce just ignores us, so we can't arrest the dealers and pimps anymore."

    That's not a perfect analogy - it doesn't cover the jurisdiction-of-the-relevant-police bit which helps make the "ignores us" part viable - but improving it much would probably require making it quite a bit longer and more involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    tom (profile), 10 Jul 2018 @ 9:06am

    This is basically what happened years ago when a certain NY Attorney General pressured ISPs to quit including free access to USENET as part of their service. The claimed reason was the fight against child porn. It wasn't long before law enforcement was complaining that catching child pornographers had gotten much harder since the CP folks had moved to secure members only sites instead of the anyone can see USENET.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Jul 2018 @ 10:06am

    And this ignores the fact that sex workers are now forced to work at much worse and risky conditions. There are statistics showing a rise in the number of violence against women.

    Basically the ones that pushed for this mess have succeeded in assisting murders and pimps. Awesome, eh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2018 @ 9:15pm

    Re: Re:

    You would think that given how often blue boy gives the benefit of the doubt to cops, he'd be all for making the cop's job easier. But apparently not - because this cop doesn't toe the magical anti-Masnick fantasy line he masturbates to, suddenly this cop doesn't count anymore.

    out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 11 Jul 2018 @ 2:29am

    Re:

    That's a feature, not a bug. The moralists are trying to scare them straight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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