I see a lot of people celebrating the arrest of backpage execs. At first I was excited, but the cynical abolitionist in me took a longer look at the move by California and Texas authorities and I’m just not convinced that this is more than a token gesture… a PR stunt.
Technically and legally, I’m not sure they meet the definition of traffickers, at least no more than the ISPs/cell carriers the traffickers use, the company that invented bitcoin, or even long dead ancient races that invented currency based trade. Hell, if we’re pointing fingers, I dare say the hoteliers, apartments, and rentals found hosting these rings might be just as culpable. It’s an interesting turn, considering I was recently told that pornographers who produce and distribute child porn as currency are not traffickers…
So, what does this PR stunt accomplish? Raise awareness? Put online entities on notice? Awesome… Or will it drive the most cooperative online posting site in the world to a foreign country (or to the dark web) where it no longer has to cooperate with investigations; and will likely stop providing reporting tools and the plethora of information that is currently shares with law enforcement (upon request without warrants). I don’t like backpage, but in terms of big deals, it’s shooting a sedated lion.
My only hope is that this easy win (for today at least..) inspires other jurisdictions to learn more about how they can combat trafficking in their backyards. I really would rather see the millions upon millions that will be spent pursuing this, being used to train departments, advocates, and open more hospital beds and programs to survivors.
So, what’s my suggestion for all of you? Get back to work. Talk about trafficking to the uninformed, let your leadership know that punishments are inadequate, ask you local victim programs what they need, DEMAND RESILIENCY TRAINING IN SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES, share missing child posters, and be a cheerleader for the boots on the ground. I cannot stress that enough. It’s totally self serving, but in those quiet minutes in the wee hours or when traffic lulls my mind, the weight of it all really hits. I don’t know anyone in this racket that doesn’t struggle. Your support is everything.