Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage, was arrested Thursday, October 6th in Texas for his company’s alleged participation in the trafficking of children online.
For a number of years, Alliance to Rescue Victims of Trafficking, Polaris Project, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have been raising awareness of this issue and educating the public about how Backpage facilitates the trafficking of children online.
These organizations and several others working in the field of human trafficking have interviewed trafficked survivors who, although shall remain anonymous, confirmed they were sold for sex online including on Backpage. According to several survivors and social workers not only is the prostitution of children sold online an increasing trend so is the selling of illegal drugs online including: heroine, meth and fentanyl. These illegal drugs can be purchased online for as little as $5 dollars. For example, a quarter ounce bag of heroine sold online usually sells between $5-$10 dollars. At these prices, it is understandable why thousands of kids have switched their drug of choice to heroine becoming full blown addicts at a harrowing speed and why traffickers are pumping these same drugs into their victims to keep them under control. Several law enforcement officials agreed, on condition of anonymity, “these crimes are fast becoming an uncontrollable and uncontainable problem.”
Surprisingly, on October 6th, the same day of Ferrer’s arrest, The New York Times’ front cover story reported how an increasing number of patients in need of organ transplants have become the recipient of organs donated by families whose kids died of a heroine overdose. Perhaps the accessibility and price point of these illicit drugs plus the glamorization of the drug culture by Hollywood, the television and music industries have exerted a greater influence on kids on their path to destruction.
In Washington, several members of Congress have been working to regulate the sites including; Senator Dick Durbin (D-ILL) and former Congressman Robert Turner (R-NY), who supported legislation to shut down Backpage since 2012. In 2015, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) sponsored the SAVE Act (Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation), a Bill that would criminalize online ads that sell and promote sexual services.
Perhaps along with the SAVE Act, Congress should introduce a new bipartisan Bill to criminalize online sites that allow the sale of illegal drugs online as well. For now, Ferrer’s arrest is encouraging news for the survivors of sex trafficking, the abolitionists working to end human trafficking and a warning signal to all online sites engaged in similar activities.