There’s a battle brewing over free speech.  As a media company, we’re all about free speech.  But when it comes to allowing for sex trafficking of kids?  That’s a different story entirely.

Michael Lacey and James Larking are scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court in Arizona in January 2020. They are charged with money laundering, conspiracy and facilitating prostitution. If their names do not sound familiar, here is their back story.

The journalists got their start when they helped create the Phoenix New Times, an alt-weekly newspaper publication, in 1970. The built an alt-weekly empire with their paper, specializing in muckraking journalism.

According to a piece done by reason.com:

“They made enemies of powerful Arizona politicians like John and Cindy McCain and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”

As part of that newspaper, like many others, there was a classified section. They called it Backpage.

Once websites like Craigslist took over the classifieds market by taking it online, New Times moved their classifieds to a site called Backpage.com, in 2004. And this is where we pick up the story of Larkin and Lacey.

Reason.com continues:

“On the morning of April 6, 2018, the FBI arrested Michael Lacey and James Larkin and seized Backpage.com, the website they created in 2004, on allegations that it was a platform for underage sex trafficking. Lacey and Larkin were later charged with money laundering, conspiracy, and facilitating prostitution. The two men have maintained their innocence and are now confined to Maricopa County, Arizona, via ankle monitors.”

Folks, it is at this point in the process that I must warn you that watching this documentary style piece will make you sick to your stomach. It certainly turned mine. I highly recommend that you do watch the video. I just wanted to warn you what you would be walking into if you choose to do so.

This video is 38+ minutes justifying the sex for sell industry, sex workers and realistically, sex trafficking in general.

It is statement after statement from Lacy and Larkin claiming their innocence. It is character witnesses, some who work in the sex trade another who runs an organization to assist young women who were victims of trafficking.

Reason.com’s Paul Detrick is quick to point out:

“Illegal activity was never ‘allowed’ on Backpage, but sex workers advertised their services via innuendo. Connecting with clients online turned out to be considerably safer than walking the streets or working for a pimp. The internet empowered sex workers.”

Let’s pause for a moment. What the writer and editors of this piece are trying to say is this: Sex sells.

If people want to sell their bodies for profit, who is the government to try and stop it. Their arrests were lauded as a victory against child sex trafficking, but to read their account and watch this video, you would believe that we were living under a tyrannical regime, hellbent on keeping the press and its journalists under its oppressive thumb.

In fact, they compare McCain, John Cornyn and other outspoken politicians of adopting a McCarthyism mentality. As they said in the headline to their piece, “The War on Backpage.com Is a War on Sex Workers.”

There is that concept again. They are doing everything in theory power to normalize the sex trade industry and doing so under a cloud of 1stAmendment protection.

To complicate matters further for Larkin and Lacey, their competitors agreed to cease the ‘adult classifieds’ that were running on their sites.

Craigslist and others took that aspect offline, while Backpage blatantly refused to do so. In doing so, defenders of Backpage’s owners believe that they forced sex workers back into a more difficult position of needing to walk the streets, turn back to pimps, and return to a clientele that was abusive to them.

Afterall, you can walk the streets, make $30 and then get mugged right after, or you can place a classified, meet discreetly, make $300 and then head off to your next client without fear.

Why is this their mindset? Because, according to Siouxsie Q, everyone deserves to earn a living, even if their “career choice” is illegal.

In a disturbing development in the piece, Lois Lee, founder of Children of the Night, comes to the defense of Backpage and it’s founders.

Children of the Night was founded in 1979. According to their website: they are a privately funded non-profit organization established with the specific purpose to provide intervention in the lives of children who are sexually exploited and vulnerable to or involved in prostitution and pornography.

Not so surprising, Souixsie Q, a sex worker describes the difficulties in getting a job in 2008 with her Bachelor of Arts degree, so she turned to the sex industry. She was part of a new generation of sex worker in an industry that had been transformed by the internet, according to author and narrator Detrick.

Q continues:

“Strip club money was cool and all, but the cost of living (in San Francisco) was skyrocketing, so I turned to other types of sex work. The internet empowered us on a whole new level. We built communities and it kept us safe.” 

The internet made it safer for them to commit their acts. A key point that the people in the story were not grasping…the internet did not make the activities legal.

Larkin and Lacey make numerous claims to their innocence. They base this off the 1stAmendment and the fact that the posters on their classifieds were consenting adults.

But were they? Is it possible that some nefarious types were posting adds for sex trade and exploiting men, women and children, who were being coerced or forced to participate?

It absolutely is possible, and it has been proven that this is the case.

Everything about the Backpage story is gross. In the course of the article written by Detrick and the 38-minute video, not one person said that sex trafficking is a horrible thing. Not once did Backpage say that they are saddened that people used their platform for such evil activity.

Nope…they just claimed innocence, normalized illegal sex industry practices and villainized politicians who were working diligently to shut these people down.

At the end of the day, when Kamala Harris is leading the charge to shut you down, you know you have messed up, because she is in favor of legalizing just about everything.

These two will have their day on court. They will face a jury of their peers. May God have mercy on their souls.

To put a bow on an otherwise despicable account, earlier this year, Backpage’s office space on Dallas was again occupied. Not by Backpage, or others that were implicitly involved with sex trafficking, but by the team at DeliverFund – the very team that helped shut them down.  

Many of us at Law Enforcement Today are familiar with not only the mission of DeliverFund, but many of the people behind their efforts. Per their website, they are a nonprofit organization founded and staffed by former elite intelligence operators from the CIA, NSA, FBI, Delta Force and Navy SEALs who bring their experience in counterterrorism to bear on the human trafficking industry. They make the business of human trafficking risky for the trafficker by equipping, training and advising law enforcement so they can bring traffickers to justice.

According to DeliverFund,on average, every 2.5 hours an American child is trafficked.

How did this happen? As the internet grew, so did the technologies that provided human traffickers with a low-risk way to sell people. Dollar-for-dollar, human trafficking in America is far worse than it is overseas. It is a market that is growing exponentially, putting $975 million in the pockets of human traffickers every year. The same technologies that provide anonymity for traffickers to recruit children and evade law enforcement also opened a back door into your home. It is easier than ever for kids with an internet connection to be solicited online, right from your living room.

Between 100,000 and 150,000 victims are held as slaves in the U.S. 5.4 times a day, a trafficked child is purchased for sex. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports of human trafficking in the U.S. alone have increased 846% over the last 5 years.

As the article and video illustrate, we cannot continue to allow people to normalize vile and illegal acts. We must take a stand. It must stop now.

Back in August, we reported on “Operation Throat Punch” – put on by DeliverFund to take the fight right to the traffickers.

Here’s what it was all about, in case you missed it:

Sex traffickers aren’t good people. Neither are “John’s.” And that’s what makes “Operation Throat Punch” so damn awesome.

These criminals have just met their match – battle hardened United States combat veterans teamed up with law enforcement across America.

“Operation Throat Punch” is being implemented by DeliverFund, a non-profit organization that crushes evil and destroys human trafficking rings by training, equipping and advising law enforcement. It’s made up of the most badass warriors in America … Navy SEALS, Delta Force veterans, members of the CIA, FBI, DOJ and NSA analysts.

Here’s what they’re doing.

Knowing that sex traffickers look for ads of young escorts to take, DeliverFund built out hundreds of ads in dozens of cities across America … on the websites that these sex traffickers are using to recruit and pimp young girls.

The ads look like they’re for a young lady.  But when the trafficker clicks to look at more pictures, this video instead takes over their screen.

Once they hit the video, DeliverFund has them.  And not only are they working with law enforcement to destroy evil … but they’re trolling the people who clicked the ads.

Facebook. Instagram. Their messenger apps. Websites that they visit. Games they play on line. They all get filled with ads from DeliverFund letting them know that they’re being tracked … and that the group is onto them.

Operation Throat Punch

Before you start complaining that it’s not just sex traffickers that look at these ads – it’s also “John’s” – here’s what I’d say:

I don’t care.

I don’t take pity on those who are enabling sex traffickers to drug and pimp out girls by providing them a lucrative market. Perhaps now they’ll think twice about it.

Please help us spread the word about this incredible cause.  This epic campaign is something EVERYONE needs to see.  Together we can destroy evil … and troll sex traffickers.