The over-reaching arm of big government has finally succeeded in its decade long quest to get Backpage.com for allegedly “facilitating” sex workers by accepting advertisements — usually, and always falsely, described by rabid Socialist demagogues like US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) as “human trafficking,” the go-to catchall when the Feds want to indict law-abiding website administrators for not toeing the line.
Last month, while news outlets were showing wall-to-wall coverage of #NeverAgain, Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). This bill undermines the Communications Decency Act, by holding online publishers accountable for what people say and do on their platforms, ostensibly in the name of fighting human trafficking. The bill was widely condemned by sex workers, who said the bill destroyed the distinction between consensual sex work and human trafficking, as well as free speech activists, who said the bill crushed freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of expression on the internet. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) was one of the few elected officials of either party to rebuke the bill as being unconstitutional.
On April 6, several federal agencies stole (the PC word they used was “seized”) the site’s domain names, and raided its co-founder’s home with a dangerous dog and pony show involving a SWAT team and a helicopter, arresting him pursuant to a 93-count indictment from a federal grand jury.
As of the raid, the indictment remained “sealed,” the convenient legalese term for “why should the Crowne be obliged to tell mere serfs why they’re being arrested?” That’s a ripe load of bullBergdahl in and of itself. A justice system that operates in secret without transparency or oversight has no legitimate claim to the title.
News reports based on unverified leaks describe the charges as relating to money laundering and human trafficking. The money laundering mullarkey, if true, brings an additional disturbing element with it, to the extent that the alleged indictment is based on the use of Bitcoin, another digital platform that the feds would like to reign in and control.
I hesitate to describe the secrecy and cryptocurrency angles as mere distractions. They’re absolutely important, as no free society should be subjected to a government that conducts its enforcement of the law in secret, nor attempts to centralize and seize an open-source technology. But the most dire threat to liberty from my perspective is that the federal government has openly granted itself the power to criminalize free speech, and punish publishers for allowing that speech on their platforms, so long as it clicks its collective heels together and says “there’s no crime like human trafficking” three times first.
In 2016, after a court slapped down the lawfare attempts of Kamala Harris (D-CA), then attorney general of her state and now a US Senator, to prosecute Backpage for “pimping,” I suggested that merely dismissing the charges was not enough, and I am still of that opinion. Harris should have been immediately fired for abusing her position, and Backpage awarded damages for malicious prosecution pursuant to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.18(b).
The ringleaders of the Backpage theft — legislators, the DOJ, prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials — likewise should be charged with conspiracy against rights under United States Code, Title 18, Chapter 242:
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same … They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years …
For those shrugging off the demise of a liberal-owned site that allowed escorts to advertise their services, step out of your echo chamber for a moment. Backpage had shuttered its adult section prior to the indictments, in order to be in compliance with FOSTA, and the same tactics could very well be used against free speech sites like Gab and Wrongthink. If anyone solicits prostitution on any site, unbeknownst to the administrators, the site can be shut down and the owners imprisoned.
These bad actors (Democrats AND Republicans) have completely abandoned the rule of law, and they’ve done so for the express purpose of violating the First Amendment. If they are not brought to bay and severely punished, Backpage will merely be their first, not their final, victim.