The Other Problem with Sex Trafficking


This is a talk I gave at the Personal Democracy Forum  called The Other Problem with Sex Trafficking on 6/12/12 at NYU Skirball Center.

I argue that the anti-sex trafficking movement’s war on classified website shows an alarming lack of understanding of how the internet works. The movement is divided between those who fear the internet, like the anti-Backpage crusaders, and those who want to use technology to solve the problem, like Microsoft Research.

Sara Critchfield (@saracritchfield) at Upworthy says, “This Is The Most Unpopular Opinion On Child Porn You’ll Ever See — And I’m Asking You To Agree With It.”

You can also read an annotated version of this talk in Sex, Lies and Suicide: What’s Wrong with the War on Sex Trafficking in my Digital Anthropology column in


Melissa Gira Grant (@melissagirain PostWhoreAmerica:

By their own metrics, the anti-Backpage set are winning. They can’t end prostitution, pornography, or other forms of commercial sex, but they can make the sex trade more invisible, and much more dangerous.

Which is exactly why it’s critically important to raise this issue.

But to do so without including people in the sex trade – the people who actually use Backpage – you might miss the real problem.

Lindsay Beyerstein (@beyerstein) in InTheseTimes:

In order to earn our trust, the Voice will need to keep up a high level of transparency regarding its screening procedures.

Danah Boyd with Microsoft Research:

@jruv gave a talk at#PDF complicating the Backpage/human trafficking issue

Alex Howard:

At #PDF12@jruv is talking about online sex trafficking & BackPage. @NickKristof put that on my radar:

Marcia Yerman:

@jruv is positing that there is a safer way to make the net a safer place for victims of #sextrafficking.

Jim Pugh:

@jruv delving into some deep questions on where we draw the line between fighting sex trafficking and censorship at #pdf12

Tor Project:

@jruv did a fantastic talk about sex trafficking and internet censorship at#pdf12

Tom Lee:

fantastic, thought-provoking and well-delivered talk by @jruv. I have no idea if she’s right. #pdf12

Richard Robbins:

Great @jruv talk on how shutting Backpage (just like ending adult ads on Craigslist) won’t help problem. @NickKristof should watch. #pdf12


@jruv makes a compelling argument 4 using the tech that’s analyzing images on FB/CL/YT to identify & save victims of sex trafficking #pdf12

Aspen Baker:

Those confused abt suicide & bridges, this 2008 nyt article may help … cc @jruv#pdf12

Deanna Zandt:

Hard time processing @jruv‘s #PDF12 talk. *Totally* agree w whack-a-mole being wrong, but the frames w sarcasm & “slutty” words were loaded

James Borda:

@davekarpf: The Internet does not create our interests, it reveals them. c.f. @jruv ‘s talk on porn. #pdf12

Eileen Guo:

Should not be surprised, but my mind is kinda blown: @jruv on the #deepweb#pdf12

NYTech Meetup co-founder Dawn Barber:

@jruv – whoa, great inspiring talk #pdf12

Leah Vinton:

Shutting down @Craigslist adult ads was a huge loss to combat #human trafficking as will shutting down #backpage@jruv says#pdf2012


@jruv raises impt issue of “bldg barriers vs burning bridges” re: porn/prostit/trafficking but lots of missing pieces (also: how??)#pdf12

3 Responses to “The Other Problem with Sex Trafficking”
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  1. […] “Let’s talk about sex!” We should probably watch the talk in full (or check out the crib) before going […]

  2. […] “Let’s talk about sex!” We should probably watch the talk in full (or check out the crib) before going […]

  3. […] Forum called “The Other Problem with Sex Trafficking” at NYU Skirball Center on 6/12/12. Reactions and citations here. Contact the author @jruv or at […]

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