In April 2012, two federal prosecutors sent their boss a memo about Backpage, the site that had, since 2004, been operating like a parallel Craigslist. What would unravel over the course of the 24-page document contradicts almost everything we've heard from federal authorities about Backpage since.I am not surprised. Backpage seemed to be just a competitor to Craigslist. Because of potential legal liability, Craigslist has had to remove personal (dating) ads. Both operated on the principle that users can post anything, and then offensive and illegal ads get flagged and removed.
The memo—subject: "Backpage.com Investigation" — reveals that six years before Backpage leaders were indicted on federal criminal charges, prosecutors had already begun building a "child sex trafficking" case against the company. But this case was hampered by the fact that Backpage kept trying to help stop sex trafficking.
"Information provided to us by [FBI Agent Steve] Vienneau and other members of the Innocence Lost Task Force confirm that, unlike virtually every other website that is used for prostitution and sex trafficking, Backpage is remarkably responsive to law enforcement requests and often takes proactive steps to assist in investigations," wrote Catherine Crisham and Aravind Swaminathan, both assistant U.S. attorneys for the Western District of Washington, in the April 3 memo to Jenny Durkan, now mayor of Seattle and then head federal prosecutor for the district. Vienneau told prosecutors that "on many occasions," Backpage staff proactively sent him "advertisements that appear to contain pictures of juveniles" and that the company was "very cooperative at removing these advertisements at law enforcement's request."
"Even without a subpoena, in exigent circumstances such as a child rescue situation, Backpage will provide the maximum information and assistance permitted under the law," wrote Crisham and Swaminathan.
Reason also defends Johnson & Johnson. Yes, we have an opioid crisis, but it is not clear that these lawsuits will help anything. The tobacco lawsuits mainly just enriched some law firms.