The Bullshit Rewriting Of History To Claim FOSTA Took Down Backpage

from the not-how-it-happened dept

I was afraid that this was going to happen. If you don't recall, the official "reason" for why we needed FOSTA (originally SESTA) was that it was necessary to "take down Backpage." In the original announcement about the bill by Senator Portman, his press release quoted 20 Senators, and 11 of them mentioned Backpage.com as the reason for the bill. Not one of them seemed to mention that Backpage had already shut down its adult section months earlier. And, over the months of debate concerning FOSTA/SESTA, we noted that there was nothing in the existing law preventing federal law enforcement officials from taking down Backpage if it were actually violating the law.

And, indeed, before FOSTA was even signed into law, the DOJ seized the website and arrested its founders. Incredibly, even though Backpage was shut down before FOSTA was law, some of the bill's backers tried to credit the bill with taking down the site. The worst was Rep. Mimi Walters, who directly tried to take credit for FOSTA taking down Backpage (even though FOSTA wasn't even signed into law at the time she took credit for it).

Since then, I've been concerned that there will be an attempt to rewrite history to pretend that FOSTA was, in fact, responsible for the criminal prosecution of Backpage. And, it appears that is coming true. Last week, Buzzfeed ran a worth-reading profile of lawyer Marc Randazza, whom we've talked about plenty on this site (sometimes agreeing with him, and sometimes... not agreeing with him at all). I really don't have too much to say about the profile, except that it's unfortunate that Buzzfeed's Joseph Bernstein helps build up the myth that FOSTA was responsible for taking down Backpage:

The state still has the limited power to regulate individuals’ speech. But so too can the state pressure or mandate social platforms to limit what they publish (as it did in FOSTA/SESTA, which forced websites like Backpage to stop hosting ads for sex work, resulting in conditions that sex workers say have endangered them), and so too do social platforms govern the speech of their users.

This is really, really wrong -- and it's unfortunate, because it makes you wonder what other errors might be lurking in Bernsteins' reporting (he's normally a great reporter, but this is a pretty big error). In fact, there was an entirely different law, the SAVE Act from 2015, that made advertising sex trafficking illegal. And, it was grandstanding threats by Congress (way before FOSTA/SESTA) that made Backpage shut down its entire adult section. And it was the DOJ who took down Backpage before even FOSTA was law. So why is anyone reporting that FOSTA helped take down Backpage?

Because that's the narrative FOSTA supporters wanted from the very beginning. It's why so many of the quotes about the introduction of the bill mentioned Backpage. It's why sponsors of the bill falsely claimed Backpage was taken down thanks to FOSTA. But we shouldn't let them rewrite history like this, and reporters like Bernstein shouldn't contribute to this myth. FOSTA wasn't necessary to take down Backpage.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Auntie Hill, 27 Sep 2018 @ 1:16pm

    THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

    But it's adequate reference for the contemporary attitude and efforts.

    Does not in least matter whether you are right in fine or large points.

    No one but you will ever be concerned, as shown by LACK of comments for an hour now. -- Any after this are completely due to me.

    Enjoy your rare "victory", Masnick.

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

    • identicon
      Rich, 27 Sep 2018 @ 1:18pm

      Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

      Wow, Techdirt's comment section attracts more crazies than Yahoo News.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2018 @ 2:37pm

        Not so much actually, it's just the few that infest it tend to be really dedicated to reminding people how unhinged/dishonest they are on a regular basis.

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

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 28 Sep 2018 @ 6:05am

          Re:

          Confirmed correct. Who the hell visits and comments repeatedly -- daily -- on the website of someone they claim to detest?

          There are plenty of people I utterly detest but I don't waste my time on them, I just find people I actually like and spend time with them -- on and offline.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2018 @ 1:33pm

      Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

      "Does not in least matter whether you are right."

      This is a great slogan you've chosen.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Auntie Hill, 27 Sep 2018 @ 1:49pm

      Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

      EXACTLY as predicted, 3 off-topic comments so far!

      Masnick doesn't even provoke comments, let alone thought. But he DOES provoke hoots! Of late the dissent seems the only real people here, rest are just fanboys and astro-turfing with mere ad hom.

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 27 Sep 2018 @ 2:22pm

        Re: Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

        Smart people only speak up if they have something worthwhile to say.

        Posting gleefully about the lack of posts isn't worthwhile.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Auntie Hill, 27 Sep 2018 @ 8:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

          Smart people only speak up if they have something worthwhile to say.

          You and I SURE prove that, Rocky! You say nothing worthwhile, and I do, get it?

          Posting gleefully about the lack of posts isn't worthwhile.

          Not for you. It's a HOOT for me.

          You know, in March Masnick was still claiming his traffic isn't down much: he stated -- for once -- about 1.55 million visits through Feb 27. Page views or unique visitors isn't clear, but that's about 57,000 "hits" per day. Now, there aren't 57 unique commenters her per day AT BEST, so I conclude that's page views, NOT unique visitors, else Techdirt has remarkably low impulse to comment. Pick your way to see it, both bad. Don't you think that's interesting?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2018 @ 10:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

            Hint: that interest is a sign of obsession, not something worth celebrating.

            Maybe if you focused on that John Steele defense fund you might actually have some copyright law getting enforced.

            Have a SESTA vote.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2018 @ 11:58pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:member last Sunday when you quit here forever ?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 12:02am

            You have to take your medication every day

            I think your mental illness played out via a vis this website is interesting. Watching our mental condition deteriorate over the past decade has been a bit of a binge watch on Netflix if you catch my drift. Here’s hoping that when you finally kill yourself you don’t take anyone else with you!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2018 @ 3:49pm

      Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

      Didn’t you quit?

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 28 Sep 2018 @ 5:39am

      Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

      Ha ha ha... you sat there refreshing the page for "an hour now." What a complete loser.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 28 Sep 2018 @ 7:19am

        Re: Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

        Oh, dear Lord, is that how he spends his time? Seriously?

        If his boss finds out he will be sacked... assuming he has a job.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2018 @ 6:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: THIS is the ant hill you choose to fight on? Okay, you're RIGHT!

          The fact that he hasn't seems to suggest that this, in fact, is his job. Trolling a website he doesn't like in hopes Shiva Ayyadurai notices and lets him suck his cock!

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

  • icon
    brad (profile), 27 Sep 2018 @ 1:26pm

    It's Masnick bringing out the hurt lovers :) I always like to make a game of wondering which angry former TD topic is authoring the comments in question.

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

  • icon
    keithzg (profile), 27 Sep 2018 @ 2:04pm

    I see one correction already on the Buzzfeed article; wouldn't hurt them to add another.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2018 @ 2:52pm

    "So... what HAS your new law done again?"

    It's not surprising that they'd try to re-write history to claim that FOSTA was responsible to taking down Backpage, as without that should someone ask them exactly what the law has accomplished they're going to be rather stumped for answers.

    They could repeat the same tired lies about how it totally decimated sex trafficking, but it would be all too easy for someone to bring up how even police aren't too happy with the law as it makes it harder to catch the criminals and find the victims.

    No no, much easier to paint Backpage as the source of all evil and then lie about how FOSTA took it down, such that now evil has been vanquished.

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

  • identicon
    TG Wilko, 27 Sep 2018 @ 6:22pm

    Erm...

    Although Mimi Rogers once married Tom Cruise, i'm pretty sure that she is actually an innocent party here... Walters surely?

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 27 Sep 2018 @ 8:44pm

    And it still does not affect???

    It was a well aimed missile..but the target moved..
    And what is amiss with this bill??

    It covers nothing..

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

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 28 Sep 2018 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re:Re:Re

    OOTB is either an unemployed photosensitive hydrocephalic basement dweller or a gainfully employed civil servant ...

    Yeah George O would laugh and shake his head sadly at that doublethink sandwich

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


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