Local Police and FBI React to Backpage Guilty Plea
In March, President Donald Trump signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), and this week the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world pleaded guilty to human trafficking.
Its CEO pleaded guilty in three states agreeing to testify against other website officials.
Locally, Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker, who is also involved in the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, said he was gratified that the Backpage site had been shut down.
“I think this is an important first step in holding these websites accountable for the culpability they play in trafficking in not only adults, but minors through the facilitation of people who are involved with commercial sex,” said Baker. “That will probably mean the dominos of other sites will probably begin to fall down.”
Baker said the only reason Backpage was able to capitalize on sex trafficking was because Craigslist was forced to close down its personal ads.
“Backpage was all over America and its worldwide now and so ads were posted in individual cities in Montana, it was broken down into Kalispell, Missoula, Butte, Helena, Bozeman and Billings where there were usually 40 to 50 ads per day in the state of Montana, so it was a pretty significant facilitator of commercial sex in Montana,” he said. Baker said he anticipates that the sex trafficking will simply move to different websites, but that sex traffickers will not stop the activity of promoting prostitution.
“We’ll just have to figure out which websites they’re using now,” he said.
Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sponsored the bill the bill that closed a legal loophole that had allowed Backpage to exist for as long as it did by criminalizing the knowing facilitation of online sex trafficking.