While Tony Ortega has not been indicted in the Backpage sex trafficking scandal currently playing out in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona, Ortega has certainly gathered a fair share of attention in media for his role promoting the sex trafficking website as editor-in-chief of its parent company in the site’s heyday.
Backpage became the largest online sex trafficking site in the world before it was shut down by the FBI in 2018. Ortega proudly championed and defended Backpage—even as minors trafficked on the site included a teenager who describes being gang-raped, choked and forced to perform sexual acts at gunpoint. Still others were simply murdered—stabbed to death or strangled.
“The First [Amendment] is not something to hide behind while others are forced into sex trafficking.”
André Coleman, the managing editor of Pasadena Now, recently covered the story:
“According to investigators, FAIR Girls, a Washington, D.C., social service organization dedicated to preventing the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education, it wasn’t just a ‘small number.’
“Virtually all of their clients in 2012—including some as young as eleven—had at some point been sold through Backpage.com, according to a quote given to NBC News.
“Ortega and Village Voice parted ways in 2012.
“Ortega has not been indicted.”
The article continues: “‘Seven years ago, the people I work for were smart enough to start Backpage.com, a competitor to Craigslist,’ Ortega wrote in 2011 according to the Daily Beast. ‘What happens when two adults find each other through Backpage.com? I couldn’t tell you … [It] exists solely so that people can freely express themselves—sometimes in ways that make other people uncomfortable. We’re First Amendment extremists that way. Always have been.’”
The Pasadena Now article concluded: “Simply put, the First is not something to hide behind while others are forced into sex trafficking.”
Media should be aware that giving a platform to Tony Ortega instantly destroys their credibility—because no one uses a child sex trafficking apologist as a “source” in their stories.