Review: ‘Taking Down Backpage’ a Compelling Look at Prosecuting the Sex Trafficking Site | book reviews

DELETE BACKPAGE: Fighting the World’s Biggest Sex Trafficker. By Maggy Krel. New York University Press. 192 pages. $22.95.

The final chapter of the Take Down Backpage story has yet to be written.

Prosecutor Maggy Krell offers a compelling account of her legal strategy to go after Backpage, a website that offered sexual services — some, Krell said, of girls as young as 12.

Krell’s book explains how prosecutors create teams across multiple agencies to pursue complicated cases.

Sometimes, however, the goals of law enforcement and the justice system conflict. For example, the FBI used Backpage as a source to help agents find trafficked persons.

But the book was published too soon. Yes, the website is locked down and over $200 million in profits confiscated and, Krell hopes, distributed to help combat online traffic and in particular the selling of girls as if they were commodities.

However, this money has not yet been distributed and the owners of Backpage have not yet tried. Backpage chief executive Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty, acknowledging that the site was designed to enable prostitution. However, a federal judge halted the criminal trial of Backpage founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin in September, saying, as reported by the Arizona Republic, that the government “unfairly tainted the jury with testimony about the child sex trafficking instead of focusing on the crime at hand”. – whether the defendants helped facilitate the prosecution.

While the Backpage case awaits resolution, the book nevertheless exposes an unresolved issue in America: what should be the limits of liability for website operators. The owners of Backpage have claimed that the company is not responsible for what people post on their site; Never mind that Krell amassed evidence that Backpage employees were actively facilitating ads that clearly offered sexual services.

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