On Wednesday, the President signed into law the“Fosta” Billimposing criminal penalties on Internet companies permitting prostitution ads on their sites.
This comes just seven days after the executives at Backpage.com were raided and arrested. Some are already entering guilty pleas in multiple State and Federal prosecutions. For Backpage, it was a 100 million dollar business. There are some good and bad things about the law. Craigslist has already taken down their “personals” section. This is going to take a huge bite out the ability of prostitutes to ply their trade via the Internet. This is also going to take away a huge tool used by law enforcement to identify human traffickers and people who have an interest in sex with children. The law in one respect is good, but in another bad in that it takes away the ability of law enforcement to track and identify pedophiles.
I have advocated for the legalization of prostitution in Florida. That would be a far better solution. Prostitution will never stop. It is the world’s oldest profession. Sensible regulation as opposed to criminalization, in my opinion, is a better solution.
The “Fosta” law will now be used to next target the “Escort” business here in Sarasota. Go online now and click on “Sarasota Escort” and see how many sites are up. My bet is that in thirty days, 90% of them will be gone. The “escorts” will now go to the social media dating sites and the dark web to place their advertisements. They will not go away, they will just be harder to find. This is going to push the prostitutes back into the bars and on the streets. It actually makes their business more dangerous. My prediction is that in the short term there will be a flood of high end prostitutes in the high end bars like the Ritz. Time will tell.
The FBI has raided the owners of Backpage.com and shut them down under the new law. Craigslist has taken down the personal sections like Casual Encounters. Escort sites are next on the target list to be shut down. Prostitution is going to be forced back onto the streets. My prediction is that this new law is going to backfire and make it more difficult for law enforcement to identify people who commit sex trafficking with children. Backpage.com was the number one source used by law enforcement to target human traffickers. Casual Encounters on Craigslist was the number one site used by undercover police chatters trying to identify pedophiles. The new statute is going to make it more difficult to enforce existing laws. Where will the millions of prostitutes go now?
The solution or at least a great first step in solving human trafficking would have been to legalize prostitution. It is already legal is some locations. The answer is reasonable regulation, not banning the worlds oldest profession. Prostitution has been with us throughout all of recorded history. The new law will bring back the era of the pimp. It will put women back in bars and back walking the streets. The better solution would be legalized and regulated houses for prostitution and have the prostitutes get regular medical exams, and provide a safe place for consensual sex.
There is a huge problem with the new law. It provides Ex Post Facto punishment. The new law specifically states that it shall apply regardless of whether the conduct alleged occurred, or is alleged to have occurred, before, on, or after such date of enactment. In other words, it purports to make something a crime, even if it occurred before the law was passed. That can never hold up constitutionally. The Feds are now in the business of enforcing prostitution laws. As a sex crime lawyer and an ex Federal Prosecutor and ex Federal Agent, I see the writing on the wall. This is similar to prohibition and we all know how that ended. Federal authorities are going to have a field day going after escort sites. Prostitution will be forced back into the shadows and in the long run, this will be worse for women. This is just another misguided law by misguided legislators.
The Sheriff in Polk has just announced another 16 arrests in the latest sex sting captioned Operation Cyber Guardian. These cases may be the last remnants from Craigslist Casual Encounters, the personal section now taken down by Craigslist. Many of the arrests over the last ten years are the result of undercover detectives posing as adults on Craigslist and then when people respond, changing the age to 14 or 15. It is going to become tougher and tougher for the police to entrap people as the sex hookup sites are taken down as a result of the new laws. The police are going to have to change tactics and switch to the cell phone applications that match purportedly consenting adults for sexual encounters
For some reason, in Polk County, the detectives are successful in drawing people from outside the County to come into the County to hook up with teenage girls. After hundreds of arrests, the men seem to fall for the same pitch over and over. Here is the reality. There are no 14 and 15 year old girls that want to have sex with older guys. It is always a cop. There are no 14 and 15 year old girls that want some older guy to teach them. It is always a cop. Here is another common thread. One fourth of the men asked the undercover chatters are you a cop. There is a misconception that the police have to answer that question truthfully. They do not. That is why they call them undercover cops. The undercover chatters usually respond back well, are you a cop and for some reason the guys buy it and continue to chat and travel. In most of the cases, the undercover chatter will ask the suspect to bring protection. That is so they can use it as evidence that the person was actually coming to have sex. In many of the cases, the undercover chatters will ask the suspect to bring candy or something to drink. Here is the bottom line. Never travel to meet a minor.for anythingmuch less sex. Never send a penis pic to anyone, whether they are an adult or a child. Never even hint to a child that you are interested in sex. Dont even think about it, much less talk about it. The best way to not get arrested is to not commit a crime.