Welcome to Portland!

Intern Rebecca here, with embarrassing news from my hometown…

oregongThis case reads a bit like a bad episode of any daytime soap, so I’ll try to break it down for you.

Way out West in Portland, OR, a twenty-year-old man-child by the name of Zachary Driver was caught pimping out girls via the Internet – a business venture made possible by sites such as MySpace and Craigslist. One of Zachary’s “employees” was a fifteen-year-old girl, and Zachary was soon exposed for selling underage girls as prostitutes and was sent to prison.

Distraught by the idea that her son would be returning (that’s right, returning) to prison, Shelia Montgomery, Zachary’s mother, decided to show the world that this particular fifteen-year-old was already a slut before dear Zachary turned her into an underage prostitute. How did Ms. Montgomery do this? She posted naked pictures of the fifteen-year-old on her own MySpace page – ostensibly taken before the girl met her son – to prove the girl lacked a moral code. Because posting naked photos of minors is child pornography, Shelia was charged with assisting in human trafficking over the Internet and is now serving time herself.

A little research unfortunately shows that human trafficking via sites like MySpace and Craigslist is apparently the hip new thing in Portland, along with avoiding gluten and wearing unnecessary glasses.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, an average of five cases of human trafficking via the Internet occur each week in my fair city, with an average of two cases a week being juveniles.

Portland police estimate a pimp earns $800 to $1,000 a day from each juvenile victim.

Really, Portland? Is this what it’s come to? I know we’re known for harboring insane amounts of pot, and more recently meth, and I know our only professional sports team is nicknamed the “Jail-Blazers,” and I also recognize the unemployment rate is uncomfortably high, but using MySpace to pimp out children? Or try to defend your child after they’ve used the Internet to pimp out even younger children?

As an Oregonian, I’m embarrassed. As a US citizen, I’m in shock. Human trafficking is clearly illegal. How can it happen via a forum as public as the Internet?? And we’re not even talking hidden black market websites here. We’re talking MySpace, Facebook’s ever publically embarrassing unwanted uncle.

Human trafficking is happening through the exact same medium you’re using to read this article. Are you disgusted yet?

Why hasn’t MySpace been shut down? Or Craigslist? How can this go on, legally, in a country that prides itself on being safer and all around better than the rest?

AMY RESPONDS…

I had no idea that Oregonians had such strong feelings. Or so many problems, really.  But I’ll be sure to keep my meth lab out of your state.  I think you correctly point out the horror of human trafficking, but I have to take issue with your solution here. First, there’s actually a law that protects websites from liability based on the third party content posted on them. In other words, if I have a website that carries content written and posted by outsiders (MySpace, for example), and someone posts something really stupid or criminal on it, by law as the website owner or internet service provider I can’t be held liable.

Secondly, I think we’ve got a public policy issue if we shut down sites that host content that we think is horrific (even where, as here, it really truly is).  The first amendment guarantees that the government shall not abridge the freedom of the press and while internet laws are still somewhat up for grabs, I think it strikes fear into the hearts of federalists everywhere that the police would be able to just shut down sites that post content that they hate.

Finally, I think that we misuse the justice system when we create a nanny state that, rather than punishing the scum-sucking slime that commit crimes like human trafficking, we simply shut down any possible sites that might allow them to do so.  Instead of shutting down Myspace, I propose instead that we snap pictures as these two idiots are doing the perp walk to the courthouse in handcuffs, and post those on myspace for the world to see.

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