Failures

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
ads, ann wagner, fosta, sex trafficking



The Utter Failure Of FOSTA: More Lives At Risk... And Sex Ads Have Increased, Not Decreased

from the pushing-things-further-underground... dept

Once again, as we predicted, FOSTA -- a law ostensibly passed to stop sex trafficking -- has been a total disaster. Passed based on totally inaccurate moral panics, it has resulted in online censorship and highly questionable lawsuits. But, worst of all, despite all the rhetoric about how it was necessary to save the lives of young girls, it has actually put them at much greater risk, and increased the amount of sex trafficking, while decreasing the ability of police to track down and arrest actual traffickers.

As this was all becoming clear a few months back, the legislators who pushed FOSTA tried to completely rewrite history to claim it was a success. Chief among them was the original sponsor of FOSTA, Rep. Ann Wagner, who announced that FOSTA was responsible for "shutting down nearly 90% of the online sex trafficking business and ads." This was wrong on multiple levels. That number was based on the shutdown of Backpage, which happened before FOSTA was law and had nothing to do with FOSTA. Even worse, an investigation into that 90% number by the Washington Post showed that even it was not true. At that time, the research showed that, while there was a brief plunge in sex ads after Backpage was seized (again, separate from FOSTA), the volume was coming back up to about the same level.

And, now, a new report by software company Marinus Analytics has found that online sex ads are showing up at an even higher rate than before FOSTA became law.

According to Pittsburgh-based software company Marinus Analytics, there were about 146,000 online sex ads posted per day in the U.S. on leading escort websites from mid-September to mid-October—and the company expects the total for this month to be even higher.

In contrast, there were about 133,000 such ads posted on Backpage in the month before its shutdown, Marinus Analytics found.

Instead of backing away amid the government crackdown on sex trafficking, some escort websites are doubling down on their business model and see the Backpage shutdown as an opportunity to expand, said Emily Kennedy, Marinus Analytics' president and co-founder.

"They're really competing with each other for that spot now and so we're seeing frequent activity at this point," she said, adding that as long as the business remains lucrative, "people are going to figure out a way to advertise it."

Of course, unlike Backpage -- which regularly cooperated with law enforcement to help -- these new sites obviously have zero incentive at all to cooperate with law enforcement who are trying to track down actual traffickers. Because, thanks to FOSTA, these sites now need to try to stay away from any attention from law enforcement.

So, to recap, this law designed to stop sex trafficking by criminalizing sites that host ads around prostitution has:

  • Not stopped those ads (indeed, they've increased)
  • Enabled greater censorship of the internet.
  • Enabled wasteful and dangerous lawsuits against internet companies.
  • Made it more difficult for law enforcement to track down and arrest actual traffickers.
  • Put many, many people in grave risk of injury and death.
So, where are all the supporters of FOSTA now that basically everything that we critics predicted has come true?


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  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 9:29am

    And tumblr is about to commit suicide as well - fiver says its FOSTA related...

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 12:23pm

      Re:

      They are going to TRY to kill off the adult sections, the Anima sections, and anything else they THINK is illegal..

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

    • icon
      Zgaidin (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 5:51pm

      Re:

      Not a Tumblr user, but from what I've seen elsewhere, it has to do with the fact that Apple pulled their app from the store - though there's some debate over whether that was due to lawful NSFW content or illegal content that they failed to moderate even when reported by users is unclear. This is them taking a sledgehammer to a problem that's probably best solved with a small screwdriver.

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

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 4 Dec 2018 @ 8:26pm

        Re: Re:

        Not a Tumblr user, but from what I've seen elsewhere, it has to do with the fact that Apple pulled their app from the store - though there's some debate over whether that was due to lawful NSFW content or illegal content that they failed to moderate even when reported by users is unclear. This is them taking a sledgehammer to a problem that's probably best solved with a small screwdriver.

        This is what happens when Internet companies are bought by corporations. Their "image" is more important than their users.

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 5 Dec 2018 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      Tumblr user on twitter:
      "You can't take that out. That's loadbearing smut."

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    In Deanna Jones and the Temple of Do Me (1979), 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:06am

    NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

    Now, now. Article attributes the increase of others to Backpage removed:

    Smaller escort websites are vying for the lucrative online sex-for-hire market Backpage.com dominated before U.S. authorities shut it down earlier this year,

    So after you asserting several times that FOSTA wasn't needed exactly because Backpage was taken down before FOSTA was passed, you cannot now blame FOSTA for others increased.

    But you happily contradict yourself! Consistency is never your goal; promoting prostitution is, especially sex-trafficked underage prostitutes. -- You've given that evidence against yourself in all those links to prior rants. Anyone reading with that charge in mind will see that you have a mania for it.

    By the way, Tinder intends will stop all pornography, and the prostitutes who've been using it to advertise are of course not taking it lying down -- which is quite a change for them.

    Online prostitution, like much else, should NEVER have been let become visible. LACK of early and frequent enforcement is the key problem.


    New York city taxi drivers are committing suicide recently at high rates. The cause: Uber and Lyft have reduced the value of their Medallions from $1M to a mere 200,000. But do you wail at that disruption? HELL NO. That's mere evolving economics.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      In Deanna Jones and the Temple of Do Me (1979), 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:10am

      Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

      There's also a likely flaw in the numbers: many are duplicates because the sites are smaller. Since it's not stated that duplicates were removed, you can't rebut.

      Also, the actual number of, er, transactions isn't known. So it's just an academic assuming what wants.

      Besides that, numbers always increase. You cannot refute the fact that in absence of FOSTA, the numbers increased from near zero to epidemic.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        In Deanna Jones and the Temple of Do Me (1979), 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:12am

        Re: Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

        And in any case, IT'S STILL EARLY, LESS THAN YEAR. You're just as usual predicting as you predicted.

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

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 4:20pm

        Re: Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

        There's also a likely flaw in the numbers: many are duplicates because the sites are smaller. Since it's not stated that duplicates were removed, you can't rebut.

        The original article actually DOES state that duplicates were removed: "As for counting double counting ads, Kennedy said the company has a process to determine if a website has high number of ads that are not legitimate. Those aren't included in the tally, she said."

        Thanks for confirming that you don't bother to check the source material and will make points that you believe to be true without bothering to check. As if we needed more evidence that you're a troll.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 5 Dec 2018 @ 3:22am

        Re: Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

        "You cannot refute the fact that in absence of FOSTA, the numbers increased from near zero to epidemic."

        That has to be the dumbest argument for a law that I've ever heard. By the same logic, you may as well scrap it right now because it hasn't reduced numbers to zero.

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

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:21am

      Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

      Trolling or just misunderstanding?

      The article doesn't attribute the raise in ads to FOSTA (ie "they raised because of FOSTA"), but notes that they still raised after FOSTA (ie "they raise despite FOSTA"). Hence, the law didn't accomplish this objective and introduced a lot of other negative side effects (censorship, more difficult investigations, ...) that were indeed attributed to this failure of a law.

      It also points out that the supporters lie about the result both in effect ("raise" instead of "drop") and cause ("it dropped because of FOSTA", when the small-term drop that did occur happened before FOSTA).

      I'll pass on commenting the rest of the ridiculous rant.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:36am

      after you asserting several times that FOSTA wasn't needed exactly because Backpage was taken down before FOSTA was passed, you cannot now blame FOSTA for others increased

      FOSTA was not needed because it was a poorly-thought-through plan to let lawmakers be seen doing something about human trafficking that ultimately made the jobs of LEOs who fight trafficking much harder to do. The ads may have increased, yet FOSTA has made it harder to find (and arrest) the sources of those ads. And it has definitely abetted the corporate censorship which you so loudly decry in other comments; after all, Tumblr’s pending ban on pornographic/adult/“NSFW” content likely has something to do with FOSTA breathing down its neck (though not as much as it does with Apple kicking Tumblr out of the App Store due to that same content).

      Consistency is never your goal; promoting prostitution is, especially sex-trafficked underage prostitutes.

      The goal in opposing FOSTA is not promotion of prostitution (though if an adult woman willingly wants to exchange sex for cash, I fail to see the issue there). The goals are to help prevent human trafficking/underage prostitution by making easier the jobs of LEOs who want to prevent such crimes, and avoid a setup for government-backed shutdowns of legal content under the guise of “fighting human trafficking”.

      the prostitutes who've been using it to advertise are of course not taking it lying down -- which is quite a change for them.

      Funny how you decry child prostitution in one paragraph, then make a joke that could very well be aimed at child prostitutes in the next.

      No, wait, that’s not funny at all.

      Online prostitution, like much else, should NEVER have been let become visible. LACK of early and frequent enforcement is the key problem.

      Passing a law that sets up government-backed censorship of both illegal and legal content just to make up for “lost time” in the fight against human trafficking is not the ideal solution to that “problem”.

      And to round off your other comments:

      You cannot refute the fact that in absence of FOSTA, the numbers increased from near zero to epidemic.

      You cannot refute the fact that since the passage of FOSTA, the numbers have not decreased from “epidemic” (however you choose to define that in your interpretation of the English language) to “near zero”. And no one has tried to refute the fact that pre-FOSTA numbers on sex ads and whatnot rose dramatically because it’s a non-starter. Measuring the impact of FOSTA is about what happens after it is passed, not what happened only before it passed.

      in any case, IT'S STILL EARLY, LESS THAN YEAR. You're just as usual predicting as you predicted.

      Yes, people tend to make educated guesses based on the knowledge available to them and the study of trends in that data. Predictions are not fact—but neither are your posts, so you should be well acquainted with meaningless opinions at this point.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:23am

      Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

      FOSTA sounds like Herpes ZOSTER.. No one wants it!

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:29am

      Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

      I will be a bit more long winded than Wyrm up there. The article notes that the supporters of the law claim it was successful because of a drop in ads. The article then notes that ad volume is unconnected to FOSTA's passage, but the closure of Backpage prior to passage. While the article then notes a rise in ads, it does not connect them to FOSTA's passage. It rather notes that FOSTA has failed to reduce or eliminate the ad load, which was the supposed goal of FOSTA. It rather connects the ad load increase to a market desire to fill the void left by Backpage, just as you note.

      The article then notes, after highlighting the failure of FOSTA, that FOSTA has created a number of issues, including Deplatforming, an increase in sex trafficking (the internet replaced the role of Pimps to screen clients/protect prostitutes and therefore reduced the ability of Pimps to control and traffic those under them), and a reduction in the ability of law enforcement to identify sex trafficking operations in a timely manner to shut them down before they move. This is what they attribute to FOSTA, not the advertising, but the side effects we are actually seeing.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:47am

      Re: NOPE! Due to Backpage taken down - BEFORE FOSTA!

      Others replied to your post already but I'll focus on that last part.

      The medallion system is regulatory capture and most of it dominated by a few players that aren't quite the shiny examples of good people. Not really a good place to be picking your examples of unfairness.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Dec 2018 @ 3:11am

      Re: Bullies suck

      "By the way, Tinder intends will stop all pornography"

      Are you actually unaware that Tinder and Tumblr are completely different services, or is this just your usual aversion to admitting anything factual?

      "Online prostitution, like much else, should NEVER have been let become visible."

      Yes, better for it to be hidden where neither law enforcement nor those who would help victims of sex trafficking can locate the activity, rather than it be visible and monitored easily. If you close your eyes and wish hard enough, the activity will just stop completely!

      You're probably stupid enough to believe this.

      "But do you wail at that disruption? HELL NO"

      Well, no more than they do at the buggy whips and carriage makers that their profession disrupted decades earlier, I'd guess.

      "That's mere evolving economics."

      Well, yeah. If your income is dependant on the government blocking people from competing with you, the economic reality is that you will suffer when competition is introduced. The medallions are worth exactly what the market says they're worth, just like any other commodity.

      Wow, you actually did just admit something factual. Amazing.

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

  • identicon
    HoldThemAccountable, 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:09am

    No Vote For Kamala Harris

    Kamala Harris to make 2020 decision 'over the holiday'

    She wants to run for president,

    also the one that pushed FOSTA/SESTA.

    Remember this if she runs...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:12am

    apart from the morons who wanted this brought into law, doing the usual political grandstanding, i doubt if anyone will disagree with you at all. what is wanted is this law repealed and if something is needed, one put together and introduced that will do the proper job!

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

  • icon
    ArkieGuy (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 10:31am

    I question the numbers....

    While I agree the FOSTA is a farce, I don't think the numbers as stated are indicative of much. The author stated that Backpage had 133k ads a month and now he found 146k ads per day...

    Ignoring the fact that one figure is per month and the other is per day, there is also the glaring assumption that the other "smaller" sites had less than 13K ads per day before Backpage was shut down. The truth is that probably most ads on Backpage were ALWAYS on more than just Backpage. I suspect the 146k per day figure is pretty close to what it would have been when Backpage was up if you hadn't counted Backpage in the count then.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:13am

    "So, where are all the supporters of FOSTA now that basically everything that we critics predicted has come true?"

    Judging by what we know about politicians in general?

    Probably enjoying the greater freedom of ability to order sex workers they can actually better get away with abusing now that those in the industry have less freedom?

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      Have my sad but true vote.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      You don't even need to go that far, even giving the politicians the (unearned) benefit of the doubt they still don't come out looking good. The fact that even more ads are showing up and people involved in sex trafficking are even less likely to be caught/rescued(depending on which end they're on) can be easily shrugged off, because it was never about them.

      This was entirely a cheap and disgusting PR stunt, a way to shoot holes in the law protecting sites and present the appearance of 'Doing Something!', with the victims/perpetrators merely props used by the politicians for their own gain.

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

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 1:41pm

      Re:

      Hey why not?

      Louisiana Senator 'Diaper' David Vitter didn't even have to resign for hiring a prostitute, and he won reelection.

      The only price he paid was losing Louisiana's last governor election, after one of his opponents from the primary endorsed the candidate for the other party.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:25am

    Fosta like herpes zoster.. nobody wants it!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:28am

    They should have called it zosta maybe it would have caught on!

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 11:44am

    You are looking at it through the wrong angle. The question is: has the law enabled stupid lawsuits against internet companies? The answer is yes. So mission accomplished. The law is a success if you consider the real intentions behind it.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 12:43pm

    HOW many here, could have found a better solution?

    How about locations for Runaways??

    Its been shown that 99% of this was due to runaways..And the numbers given by 1 side were so exaggerated that covering 5% of the populace LIKE major metro areas, would have solved most of the problem..

    But WE HAD locations for runaways..
    And no one wanted to give them money..
    AND they found a Few Pedo in them and closed them Down.
    they had so many restrictions it ran them out of business.

    Did te corps help..NOPE
    Did the Church help?? a small amount
    DID WE HELP?? NOT REALLY..

    Creating a lw means something gets done or it Fixes something, This Law did nothing. It was a pissed off lady WHO probably saw it on her Adult Kids computer..

    YOU DONT make things Invisible.. yo dont want it to HIDE from you...You dont ROLE TARMAC over it and says its Gone..its just buried under the edge..
    -------------------------------------------

    I would only ask the Lady..
    How do you figure WHO is making the money and using these Children?? Isolate this problem and you can FIX IT..
    Who has enough money to Spend $1000-5000 for a nite with a Virgin?? If you goto the idea of Kidnapping/Slavery/and Minors...NOT sex trafficking because Sex trafficking is a HUGE word and concept and covers allot..
    Its like the Word CAR?? how many types, shapes ages, Truck, 18 wheeler, Van can you add to this...
    This was a SHOT GUN that hits everything, and does little damage. If you want more laws about Prostitution..CALL IT THAT..
    But trying to Protect persons from the internet, is like trying to STOP your kids from seeing/learning REALITY..

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2018 @ 1:16pm

    '... who? Oh, them. Now, about my campaign...'

    So, where are all the supporters of FOSTA now that basically everything that we critics predicted has come true?

    You answered your own question higher up in this very article.

    As this was all becoming clear a few months back, the legislators who pushed FOSTA tried to completely rewrite history to claim it was a success.

    It was never about the victims, it was always about the politicians, and since admitting that they screwed up would be detrimental to them(and their campaign donations) they'll never do so, and will instead lie like rugs, ignoring the facts when they can, when they're not lying through their teeth in attempts to rewrite history in their favor, safe in the knowledge that most 'news' sites are too gutless to call them on it.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2018 @ 6:49pm

    out of ze blue, he cannot stand it ven ze due process is supported, ya?

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

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 5 Dec 2018 @ 1:18am

    We should hire the NRA to protect the First Amendment too.

    FOSTA would have never happened on their watch.

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

  • identicon
    David, 5 Dec 2018 @ 8:26am

    The old saying

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 12:48pm

    Morality (real or imagined) Is Job One

    "...where are all the supporters of FOSTA..."

    Crowing about their personal moral superiority and political effectiveness at shutting down prostitution on the Interwebz, i.e., lying to their constituents on both points.

    Oh, that was a rhetorical question - never mind.

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


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