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Last week, the popular classified ad website Backpage, which was known for hosting listings of sex workers, was seized by the FBI, and a number of the site’s executives were arrested on prostitution and money laundering charges. Then on Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed the highly controversial FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which removed legal protections that website operators had in cases where third parties published illegal material on their servers, is now law.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions blamed the site for “human trafficking” and “commercial sex” in a statement after the arrests:

“For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike, but this illegality stops right now. Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking.”

Politicians have praised the shutdown of the website as a victory against human trafficking, but experts are worried that this change will make life more dangerous for sex workers and victims of human trafficking alike, by forcing their activities deeper underground and putting them in more precarious situations.

While it is true that human traffickers take advantage of classified ad services, sex workers argue that these cases represent a very small percentage of the ads taken out on these sites. The vast majority of these ads are taken out by sex workers who are in this business voluntarily and many times working for themselves. In fact, it is often access to these sites that allow many sex workers to avoid being taken advantage of by pimps since they no longer need someone to screen clients for them.

Advocates at the Sex Workers Outreach Project posted a statement after the shutdown, which stated that:

“Attempting to deter sex workers from their jobs by removing advertising and screening platforms is akin to pushing sex work ‘underground’ and in the streets – where workers have less power in relation to their clients and where sex workers are at greater risk of arrest and police violence. Street-based sex workers who need support are often unable to connect with social services–Backpage, like other websites that came before it such as MyRedBook.Com, and Rentboy, helped close this gap by making screening, verification of clients, and police abuse much less likely to occur (until the online sting operations begun, but that is another statement piece).

The seizure of Backpage is another example of state-sanctioned violence against the sex work community and their families. To do this in the name of anti-trafficking is absurd, as this drives trafficking further underground and makes it more difficult to access the most marginalized members of any group of people–whether they be exploited or not.”

These points that are often raised by advocates for sex workers are backed up by science as well. According to a study conducted by researchers with Baylor University and West Virginia University, the homicide rate fell an average of 17.4 percent in cities that had access to the Craigslist “erotic services” site that hosted listings for sex workers. Since the option appeared on the site in different cities at different times, researchers were able to chart the effect that it had in the area.

The abstract of the study reads:

“Female prostitution is both illegal in most American cities and extremely dangerous, as prostitutes face risks of violence from the environment and clients. Previous studies suggest that prostitution has the highest homicide rate of any female intensive occupation in the United States by several orders of magnitude. Policies that can efficiently minimize these hazards are therefore of prima facie importance.

Between 2002 and 2010, Craigslist provided an ‘erotic services’ section on its front page which was used almost exclusively by prostitutes to advertise illegal sex services. The company opened this service in different cities at different points in time. We use a differences-in-differences strategy to identify its causal effect on female safety and find that Craigslist erotic services reduced the female homicide rate by 17.4 percent. We also find modest evidence that erotic services reduced female rape offenses. Our analysis suggests that this reduction in female violence was the result of street prostitutes moving indoors and matching more efficiently with safer clients.”

As long as we need to work to survive, sex work is going to be a profession that some people choose to get involved in. It is often said that prostitution is one of the oldest professions in history, which means that it is not something that is possible to eradicate through legislation. Legislation attempting to control this type of activity will only make it more dangerous, and fill jails with people who don’t belong there.

Human trafficking is one of the worst things that humans are capable of, but if anyone is complicit in this barbaric practice, it is the U.S. government along with their international allies. There are almost too many cases to list in which high-profile public figures or organizations were accused of pedophilia or human trafficking cases. However, they almost always dodge any prosecution or public scrutiny due to their control of the legal system and media.

There have been many cases in recent history where establishment figures have been caught up in child prostitution rings but quickly had the story swept under the rug.

One such case was on June 29, 1989, when the Washington Times’ Paul M. Rodriguez and George Archibald reported on a Washington D.C. prostitution ring that had intimate connections with the White House and President George H.W. Bush. It was suspected that this was connected with the Franklin prostitution ring that was being exposed at the same time, in a different part of the country.

That story involved the manager of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union in Nebraska. His name was Lawrence “Larry” King and he was also a prominent politician. Various unconnected victims accused him of transporting them around the country to be used as sex slaves for politicians. When the accusations finally came to light, the victims were railroaded out of court and threatened into recanting their statements, thus making themselves guilty of perjury in the process.

The perjury was enough to drop the case and actually send some of the victims to jail. The truth of the matter didn’t come out until former Nebraska State Senator John DeCamp went back to reexamine the case and discovered that the accusations were indeed true.

Human trafficking is an industry of the ruling class—it always has been. Your average blue-collar, white-collar people aren’t in the business of shipping and selling slaves. This is still very much a part of western culture, even companies with major government contracts have been accused of organizing full-scale slave rings. These companies have not only been protected by their governments, but they were also able to keep the contracts and subsidies that they had prior to the accusations.

Some of the world’s largest multinational corporations such as DynCorp and Halliburton were exposed as major players in the global human trafficking market. These companies did not work alone but cooperated with each other through various subsidiaries and had the luxury of government protection.

When suspicion was brought upon these companies it was swept under the rug by government officials. Even high-ranking members of the establishment such as Donald Rumsfeld were implicit in covering up this scandal.

On March 11, 2005, Rumsfeld was questioned by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and he admitted on the record that the allegations did have credibility—but he pushed the blame off onto a few “rogue” employees. He used the “few bad apples” line that the government always dishes out when they are caught up in a scandal.


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John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. John just won a 3-year-long battle with cancer, and will be working to help others through his experience, if you wish to contribute to his treatments consider subscribing to his podcast to support .