Category Archives: Craigslist

Congress Opens Its Eyes to the Reality of DMST

By Rachel Moore,  Fall Intern at Shared Hope International

On September 15, 2010, the culmination of many voices and a powerful idea finally found its way into the halls of the illustrious Rayburn Building. With a knock of the gavel, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) began his introduction, “Subcommittee will now come to order, and I am pleased to welcome you [to]…today’s hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. The committee is hearing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and specifically, H.R. 5575-Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010.”

This bill, sister to the Senate bill (S. 2925), was introduced by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) in June and has collected 24 co-sponsors. Despite the pending Congressional votes that day and the haste of a short session, the room was filled to capacity with listeners awaiting the testimonies of the two distinguished witness panels. Spectators even filtered into an overflow room to view the hearing via satellite; while, the most notable media in attendance included: CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN (Full Video Coverage) Washington Post, Christian Broadcast News, Al Jezeera, and Change.org

Though not every member of the Subcommittee was able to attend, Chairman Scott was joined by Ranking Member Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Lungren (R-CA), Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and Rep. Poe (R-TX) for the hearing.

The first panel was comprised of five members, including our very own founder and President, former Congresswoman Linda Smith:

  • Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (R-NY)
  • Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA)
  • Representative Ted Poe (R-TX)
  • Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ)

The second witness panel included law enforcement, NGO representatives, a survivor, and an employee of Craigslist/ their attorney:

  • Ms. Francey Hakes, National Coordinator for Child, Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, US Dept. of Justice
  • Mr. Nicholas Sensley, Chief of Police, Truckee Police Dept., Truckee CA
  • Mr. Ernie Allen, President & CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • Ms. Tina Frundt, Partner to SHI and Survivor and Executive Director/Founder, Courtney’s House
  • Ms. Suzanna Tiapula, Director of National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse  of the National District Attorneys Association
  • Ms. Deborah Richardson, Chief Program Officer of Women’s Funding Network
  • Mr. William “Clint” Powell, Director of Customer Service/Law Enforcement Relations, Craigslist, Inc.
  • Ms. Elizabeth “Liz” McDougall, Partner at Perkins Coie, LLP, Craigslist, Inc. Representation

It is not often that so many organizations come together to give testimony for a single bill, and in light of the recent Craigslist allegations related to fostering minor sex trafficking via the Adult Services section on the company’s Web site, urgency for passage of the bill was unmistakable. H.R. 5575 authorizes the US Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs to allocate six, one-year block grants of $2.5 million to create a victim-centered approach in addressing the sex-trafficking of minors. This includes placing a heavier focus on the necessity for proper shelters and services for victims, providing funding to improve resources for law enforcement agencies, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system of tracking data of missing and exploited children, and creating treatment programs in lieu of incarceration for those charged with solicitation of prostituted children. The bill also addresses deterrence tactics to prevent men from buying young girls for sex, including $2500 fees, vehicle impoundment, etc.

Panel One:

After brief introductory statements and comments from the members of the Subcommittee, the first round of testimony began with Rep. Carolyn Maloney poignantly describing the institution of sex trafficking as the recycling of human beings. The position and mindset of the Congressional panel was emulated by Rep. Ted Poe who recalled being told to “get a rope,” when he was serving as judge in Texas, to address perpetrators of sex exploitation.

Congressman Christopher Smith echoed the need for reformation by declaring this issue a huge and escalating crisis. He commended Rep. Speier for asserting that we need to do what the bill has outlined and expand on it ten-fold.

Former Congresswoman Linda Smith brought the first panel testimonies to a close by screening a short victim testimony video and giving a voice to the voiceless; she called her “Lacy”.  Linda Smith discussed the issue of DEMAND for younger and younger victims as the driving force of this market. She implored the committee to understand that those who buy sex from innocent children should receive the full penalty under the law.

Panel Two & Questioning:

The main focus of the second panel was a reiteration of the need for resources, a reverberating sound of how prolific the use of the Internet to exploit children has grown (and not just on Craigslist) and the need for law enforcement to use this same technology to combat it. Rep. Poe said he wanted to the see the pictures of every buyer posted online and done more fervently than the traffickers post pictures of their girls.
The DOJ’s Innocence Lost Initiative was noted for making strides, but they need to capitalize on their progress. The 10 traffickers that have presently been indicted needs to become 1000; the approximate 1200 children rescued needs to look more like 10,000; and the 50 beds available for these rescued victims needs to become 50,000.

There is a social change that is needed, according to Mr. Ernie Allen. This was done to campaign against tobacco and for the use of seat belts, and now we need society to see the realities of the heinous crimes happening to our children in America. As Tina Frundt so powerfully stated, “We need this [change] yesterday!”

Once questioning concluded, Chairman Scott adjourned the hearing with the closing remarks, “This was a very powerful hearing. We can do a lot more if we focus our minds to it.” Focus our minds we must, and continue to take the needed steps e.g. Craigslist shutting down their adult services section, but more importantly, the American people need to re-sensitize their psyche and raise their voices to fight against Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.

Leave a comment

Filed under Craigslist, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, Linda Smith, Renting Lacy, Shared Hope

Craig – The Most Successful Pimp in the World

Former Congresswoman Linda Smith is Founder and President of Shared Hope International

By Linda Smith
President and Founder, Shared Hope International

Recent news reports have highlighted the role of Craigslist in facilitating commercial sex involving minors – domestic minor sex trafficking. However, as we advocate for the closure of Craigslist’s adult services web page, we must acknowledge that for the lucrative business of online classifieds for “adult services” will continue to exist as long as the fuel that keeps this seemingly endless problem alive exists – DEMAND.

Shared Hope International’s research has demonstrated the connection between increased access and increased demand for paid sexual services.  More men and boys are receiving unsolicited Internet advertising for pornography – this explosion in the amount of pornography is causing an unprecedented demand for commercial sex with a female who looks young and healthy – this female is too often a girl.  Thriving demand has led to the migration of criminal ventures to the anonymous world of the Internet.

Perusing the local street corner turns into a virtual experience
In the 1980’s, we decimated the pornography industry by focusing on its primary distribution system, the postal service.  Today we are faced with a pornography industry a thousand times more pervasive as it utilizes the anonymity and accessibility of the Internet.  The dissemination of pornography and access to commercial sex through computers brings the market directly into your home.

Today, anyone can go online to a number of classified services websites and purchase sex with a minor. Where ten years ago these prostituted youth – victims of sex trafficking – might have been forced to stand on a busy street corner, fulfilling a nightly quota for their controlling pimp, today they are more likely to be standing on the virtual street corner of Craigslist, out of sight from those not looking for them but easily accessible for the shopper in the mall of human product.

Craig, the most successful pimp in the world
Craigslist is the giant in the nascent online classifieds industry. Ever the opportunists, child predators have spotted the potential of Craigslist’s “adult services” page and the website has become a bustling marketplace for the buying and selling of our kids for sex.

A new slavery block has been created on Craigslist and many other online classified web pages, and the modern-day slave is an American child under 18 years of age being recruited and ensnared through manipulation and violence by predators who sell them for sex in their own towns and cities across the U.S.

Craigslist has been under attack for facilitating the trafficking of women and children for sex by not preventing it from occurring on their web pages.  Sadly, this has made Craig America’s most successful pimp, bringing in an estimated $36 million in profit from the posting of adult services ads last year.

In a 2009 lawsuit filed by the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff against Craigslist for creating a public nuisance through its provision of a forum for prostitution services, the judge said, “We cannot treat Craigslist as if it did create those ads.”  While technically true that Craigslist is not creating the ads, shouldn’t they have a responsibility to their customers to refrain from posting them?  Is the claim by Craigslist that they monitor the ads and remove those that suggest exploitation sufficient when we know from the mouths of survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking that they have all been marketed on Craigslist?

A minimal response
Craigslist states that the “criminal misuse of the site is quite rare,” and that the site is “one of the few bright spots” when it comes to fighting against child exploitation because the company manually screens each adult services advertisement to filter out those advertising prostitution. In addition, Craigslist claims to assist and be a tool for law enforcement in investigations because it provides phone numbers used in the ad posting and created a victim search interface.  But it is clear that neither Craigslist nor any other online classified service can keep an adult service page clean and there can never be enough law enforcement or staff to enforce it.  Craigslist claims to have screened hundreds of thousands of ads submitted for posting to the adult services web page, but has only reported 109 of the rejected ads to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for investigation into the potential of an exploited child in the ad.  It is encouraging that Craigslist is cooperating with law enforcement and we commend the efforts and successes of law enforcement to investigate these heinous crimes, but maintaining the website for the purpose of corralling buyers and sellers of sex with children is inexcusable.  Craigslist and similar online classified services are creating a marketplace and increasing sales as a result of the access.

Craigslist argues that if we close these web pages down in America, then this activity will simply move to Internet sites hosted in other countries – let it!  This excuse for failing to prevent exploitation of children through online advertising of prostitution is not convincing to those Americans living with the effects of advertised sexual exploitation on their city streets, draining law enforcement capacity and most important, putting their children and families at risk.

One exploited girl is too many – legislators must respond
“Craigslist is making money misery by misery while we are left to rescue and restore the victims one life at a time,” explained Linda Smith, Founder and President of Shared Hope International.

Almost every girl who survives sex trafficking reports having been sold through Craigslist to ten or more men every day, sometimes forced to post the ad themselves – the conduit to their repeated sexual exploitation. Many girls don’t survive to tell. A conservative calculation reveals that a child victim of prostitution is raped more than one thousand times by as many different men over the course of one year enslaved.

While regulators, legislators and courts wrangle over the ability to control the content and outline the responsibilities of online classified businesses, we must put a stop to this 21st century slave market that permits Craigslist to profit from the demand for commercial sex with our children.

End Craigslist by ending DEMAND
Although Craigslist adult services must be shut down, so too must the demand. If there were no demand for commercial sex with women and children, the market disappears. We cannot turn our backs on the rising demand for commercial sex with our women and children. Shutting down Craigslist adult services, and all those online classified businesses like it, is certainly a necessary step to stop the exploitation, but let’s be certain not to lose sight of the problem of demand.

Watch the documentary DEMAND. to learn more about how demand is driving the criminal sex trafficking markets worldwide.

Leave a comment

Filed under Craigslist, Linda Smith, Shared Hope