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Fifty Women Say Salesforce Helped Sex Traffickers Exploit Them (bloomberg.com)
223 points by petethomas on March 27, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 171 comments



Should we also allow Microsoft to be sued for all the criminals that use windows? Salesforce is a platform (albeit a horrible one I never want to work with again) and provides services to whoever pays. Illegal actions are between the local government and the user.

Criminals lie. They could claim to be a humanitarian company while trafficking. The only way for Salesforce to know would be to manually investigate all their stored data. Not only is that practically impossible, but it would also ruin them. Business information is private.

Then again, in lots of jurisdictions today, a landlord can be held liable for the tenant committing a crime. In these jurisdictions, if your tenant assaults someone on your property, you can be liable for millions in compensation. This is yet another way to drive former criminals back to crime. They aren't full citizens. They can't get a job to get money. They can't get a loan to buy a house. They can't even rent a place to stay because it's so risky. Since they've been effectively "unperson-ed", their only choice is going back to crime. At least if they're caught, they'll have food, healthcare, and a place to stay.

Stupid laws are stupid. If person A is legally responsible for person B's actions, they will necessarily start asserting control over person B's life. We do this to kids under the idea that they are too ignorant to know better. Why do we do this to mentally-capable adults? They are capable of independent decisions. Hold them responsible for their actions. Quit forcing Landlords, Salesforce, or whomever to play as parents and be legally responsible for other adults.


>Should we also allow Microsoft to be sued for all the criminals that use windows?

If a company provides products/services to someone with the knowledge those products/services will be used for a crime...then yes.

For example it’s legal for an arms dealer to sell a gun, but illegal to sell a gun if the seller knows the gun is being purchased with the intent of being used in a crime.

Here what you have is Salesforce who allegedly sold its products/services to backpage knowing their software would specifically be used to facilitate prostitution and human trafficking. Whereas you - for whatever reasons - seem to be concluding salesforce had no way of knowing their products/services would be used by backpage in the commission of a crime (ie your Windows analogy). However, the facts suggest SalesForce was well aware of backpages business practices and activities (and was publicly fighting against the same criminal activity, while simultaneously supplying software that facilitated the same). It’s a tough case but human slaves and a corporation privately profiting from these activities while publicly “fighting” against the same won’t play well to a jury.


GP isn’t asking whether it's legal to sue software companies for the acts of users. He’s asking if it's right and/or sensible.

There are many, many corporations that sold services to Backpage. If the red line is built around awareness of wrongdoing, you are just going to create an incentive for corporations to stop being socially active and an incentive to remain ignorant to customers' backgrounds.

Yes, we may want to regulate certain influential industries to require them to do due diligence on their clientele. No, I don't think it makes sense to penalize these players before this regulation is put in place due to the perverse incentives.


>GP isn’t asking whether it's legal to sue software companies for the acts of users. He’s asking if it's right and/or sensible.

Ok...but it’s a much narrower issue because it’s not about a software vendor being sued for the acts of their customers. It’s being sued for selling your goods/services where you knew or should have known the buyer was going to use your good/service to commit a crime.

So in the extreme case, if a mass shooter told their plans to an arms dealer and the arms dealer sold the gun anyway...then yes, I don’t think many people will argue with the intent of the law.

Here the facts can be blurred a little more, where SF will say we just built a data base we didn’t know how it would be used, and if we did know how it would be used then we didn’t know that use was a crime, and if we did know it was a crime we felt defense xyz would apply.

No one is saying anything about due diligence. “Know or should have known” is a legal term of art and I think everyone is implying it creates an impossible burden for tech companies to comply with. And these aren’t regulations being “put in place” as you suggest, it’s long established Law.


A bunch of Salesforce devs are hired to work on a human trafficking site. Do they all shrug and keep working? Or does Salesforce perhaps keep a special team of devs who are happy to participate in illegal actions?

I doubt the conspiracy angle here and think someone would have talked. Either the site as coded didn't have any apparent links to trafficking or Salesforce didn't participate beyond some unknowing consultation that they would give to anyone who asked.


Well that’s part of the discovery process of litigation, find out who knew what and when they knew it.

I think it’s hard to bury your head in the sand if you are salesforce and say you had no idea of backpage’s business activities and/or how your products/services would help those specific business activities...especially where the companies public facing side engages in an anti-human trafficking/prostitution PR campaign.


I've never been but from what I've read it's best to think of Backpage as a Cragislist circa 2015. It allowed for a bunch of different types of posts but charged and made the majority of their income from their adult section.


Most "Salesforce" devs arent employed by Salesforce inc. The devs that customize the platform are usually consultants or employed by the businesses using the platform.


Craigslist also had an adult section. Should anyone who sold software to Craigslist be held legally responsible as well?


I can’t answer “if we should”...only as I explained above that under the law what you describe isn’t enough on its own to create liability for the service provide, the legal threshold is whether the seller knew the buyer would use the good/service in commission of a crime.

So for example the power company who sold power to run backpage, could they be liable? Probably not.

But a tech company who allegedly custom built a database to facilitate backpages human trafficking/prostitution activities...maybe


They custom built a database to facilitate an adult classifieds section. Which on its face is not illegal, and the argument it was illegal was based on a technicality related to filtering and word replacement that removed their safe harbor protections. The owners themselves did not know this until the court case was decided years later so it seems weird to presume that Salesforce could know it.


Yeah, but on Craigslist you can't lead capture and convert to contacts and opportunities with cross-object reporting /s


I do not believe to be true any longer. A recent law passed by congress, H.R. 1865 made that illegal in an effort to fight online sex trafficking.


Backpage was shut down before the law went into effect so I assume the Salesforce work was done before the law went into effect as well.


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>SalesForce was well aware of backpages business practices and activities

backpage had been doing its business in the open in USA for almost 10 years when it became client of Salesforce in 2013. So, until 2018 no DA was bothered by the human trafficking supposedly rampant on backpage during that time, while it sounds that it was Salesforce's burden to do that the DAs hadn't and wouldn't for years - i.e. to perform investigation, etc.

Do we really want a massive SaaS company to criminally investigate its clients at its own initiative? May be it is exactly what we want - I think there is a massive attack across the board on the provider safe harbor principle with the goal to scare the providers into skittish self-censorship which the most and foremost would affect the basic civic freedoms.


> So, until 2018 no DA was bothered by the human trafficking supposedly rampant on backpage during that time

Backpage was working hard at outwardly projecting an image of fighting trafficking; it's efforts to conceal and promote trafficking were hidden in its backend software and internal processes. To the extent Salesforce was involved in implementing that software, it's quite plausible that they would have had actual awareness of the details of those efforts well before any DA did.

(Also, DAs had frequently pursued sex trafficking allegedly being done through Backpage prior to the time they had uncovered sufficient evidence to charge that Backpage itself was actively and deliberately promoting it.)


>Do we really want a massive SaaS company to criminally investigate its clients at its own initiative?

I think my arms dealer provides a much clearer example of facts removed from tech where people in HN are understandably defensive.

The law doesn’t require a seller of goods/services to investigate a buyers intent, but the law does create liability if the seller knew or should have known the buyer intended to use the good/service in the commission of a crime.

So in the case of an arms dealer if the buyer uses the gun in a crime, the arms dealer is only liable if they knew or should have known, but the law isn’t requiring the seller investigate (but if facts tend to show the buyer was discussing using the gun for crime xyz to the seller, then yes the seller could be liable).

I think this is good, others may disagree and say sellers should be able to sell goods/services where they know the buyer intends to use the same in commission of a crime...but the investigation is beyond the legal scope of what is required by law and I don’t think anyone is suggested that become the law.


>I think my arms dealer provides a much clearer example of facts removed from tech where people in HN are understandably defensive.

guns are much simpler situation, and this is why it doesn't make the situation clearer. Imagine if that specific gun dealer could look into the brain of a buyer. Would you hold him accountable for not checking the Parkland shooter's brain?

>the law does create liability if the seller knew or should have known the buyer intended to use the good/service in the commission of a crime.

Is SaaS company "should have known" what is in the data it is SaaS-ing? We know that the answer is "yes" for banks according to the explicitly written money laundering, etc. laws. There arent such explicit laws for SaaS, for Facebook, etc. Is Facebook liable if somebody uses it organize a crime like say a bank robbery or an unpermitted protest?


>Imagine if that specific gun dealer could look into the brain of a buyer. Would you hold him accountable for not checking the Parkland shooter's brain?

It’s an interesting thought experiment, but that’s not the legal burden of sellers to crawl into the mind of the purchaser. Further, it’s not about selling an item that is used in a crime, it’s selling an item you know or should know will be used in a crime. I don’t know enough about the parkland shooter purchases but it’s at least possible: 1. The shooter didn’t have intent to commit a crime when he purchased the gun/ammo and only developed the intent later after the purchase (no liability for the seller under this theory), or 2. The seller didn’t know the shooters intent and there are no facts suggesting the seller should have known.

The Law and application of the same has more common sense than saying a seller should have known...if only they read the mind of the buyer.


> but the law does create liability if the seller knew or should have known the buyer intended to use the good/service in the commission of a crime.

It does? I’m a (former) lawyer and this is news to me. Not saying it’s wrong, just wondering what the crime is (aiding and abetting? accomplice liability? conspiracy?) I’m not sure how any of these quite fit. Would love to be enlightened!


>Not saying it’s wrong, just wondering what the crime is (aiding and abetting?

I didn’t say it was a crime I said it creates liability, this is a civil case about civil liability after all.

For example there are tons of civil cases against businesses that sell ammunition, there are endless such cases against Walmart alone, where the ammunition ends up being used in the commission of a crime.

More often than not Walmart prevails in the ammo cases because there is usually no evidence showing Walmart knew or should have known the buyers intent to use the bullets in a crime (it’s probably true that many times the buyers had not such intent when the bought the ammo). Still there are cases where plaintiffs can prove the seller did in fact know, should have known or even could have predicted the intent of the buyer to use the ammo in a crime.

All that said it’s also true, though far less likely the liability could raise to a criminal level.


Would the civil liability be under tort law or something else? The first requirement for tort liability is that the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. There are some exceptions to this, but I’d be curious to know the theory here. I understand that people sue Walmart for ammo sales and such, but is there any chance that a shop owner who sells, for example, duct tape, a ski mask, and zip ties to a kidnapper could have even civil liability? The shop owner has no legal duty (even civil) to the potential victim, who may not even be identified at the time of sale. how would the shop owner be liable? I’m still not seeing it. If you can just point me to the ammo cases then I can just read up on how these cases work.


> Would the civil liability be under tort law or something else?

One obvious basis would be in tort, more specifically negligence; similar to (perhaps a subtype of) negligent entrustment.

> The first requirement for tort liability is that the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff.

That's the first requirement for negligence, not all tort liability.

> I understand that people sue Walmart for ammo sales and such, but is there any chance that a shop owner who sells, for example, duct tape, a ski mask, and zip ties to a kidnapper could have even civil liability?

Yes, quite likely, if they actually knew, or reasonably should have known, the kidnapper intended to use it in a kidnapping, and the harms at issue are of a time that should be reasonably foreseen in such use.

> The shop owner has no legal duty (even civil) to the potential victim

True under the very old common law where duty was found only in privity, but untrue with the modern rule which incorporates the general duty of care—which is generally a duty to act so as not to cause reasonably foreseeable harm.


Looks like negligent entrustment is typically limited to automobiles, and then only when the person to whom it is being entrusted is intoxicated or has a reputation for intoxication.

You're right that duty is a requirement of negligence, not all tort liability — thanks for correcting this.

I'm still not clear on how liability would result in this sort of hypo. Are there statutes establishing liability? Is it common law? Either way, what are the legal requirements, bright lines, etc.? Just looking for some good old fashioned IRAC here, if you know what I mean :)


>shop owner who sells, for example, duct tape, a ski mask, and zip ties to a kidnapper could have even civil liability?

I feel this has been exhaustively explained and reexplained throughout the thread, so the answer is: maybe...if the shop owner knew or should have known those items would be used in the commission of a crime, then yes there is potential liability. In your example even if the kidnapper didn’t disclose his intent the particular grouping of items may in fact suggest the shop owner knew or should have known, and of course other facts are relevant. For example, it’s a small town and the shop owner knows the purchaser as a felon with a history of violent crimes using duct tape and a ski mask.

That said maybe the facts suggest the shop owner didn’t know and had no reason to even predict the items would be used in a crime (maybe these are items typically purchased together from the shop).

As dragonwriter stated these cases are typically negligence cases, especially in firearms/ammo cases where there is federal law to protect arms dealers (thank NRA).

Here is a link to an article about a ammo case against Walmart (sold bullets to a drunk guy who gave the bullets to a kid after walking outside and 15 minutes after purchase shot and killed someone), my guess is Walmart won’t be found negligent. The article notes a second case where a gun shop sold a gun to someone who workers had suspicions was buying the gun for someone else (the gun was bought for someone else who used it to kill 2 police), they were found liable. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2016/01/08/wal...

Here is a second article against Walmart again where Walmart entered into a confidential settlement before trial. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-...

Sorry don’t have the time now to pull up the case styles.


> I feel this has been exhaustively explained and reexplained throughout the thread

Sorry — I'm on mobile and was just looking at this thread via /comments. Didn't realized it had been discussed elsewhere. Thanks for sharing the case info. Sounds like there haven't been (m)any cases where liability was established, which fits with my understanding of the limits of tort law (and lack of similar statutory laws).


The second case in the first link there was a trial and verdict finding liability for the seller (note there was evidence the gun shop employees had suspicions the buyer was illegally buying the gun/ammo for someone else, they sold it anyway, and the gun/ammo was bought for someone else who used the same to kill 2 police).

Again one must Keep in mind <10% of cases go to trial and verdict, so the result speaks for itself, but you are right. In general there aren’t a ton of cases against merchants alleging they sold an item they knew would be used in a crime - it should be a surprise most criminals don’t announce their intent when making purchases - and gun/ammo cases are about as prolific as any for these claims (hence why I keep using that hypothetical).

A prime example is The 2nd article Walmart where they settled that case, so we will never know, but if Walmart settles it’s safe to say there were facts suggesting Walmart liability meaning in that case they knew or should have known they were selling ammo that would be used in a crime.

I’d place my money on SF settling this case in the same fashion, not to say they would be found liable at trial, it just seems with the available facts there is potential liability and these facts won’t play well to a jury.


"the facts suggest SalesForce was well aware of backpages business practices and activities"

source?


The article we are commenting on...

>“Salesforce knew the scourge of sex trafficking because it sought publicity for trying to stop it," according to the complaint.

Allegedly salesforce had a PR campaign against human trafficking and prostitution and knew backpage was in the business of facilitating the same when it elected to do business with backpage and that their software would specifically be used to facilitate this part of the business.


Can we get some dates on those facts?

Too many time I have seen evidence like this, only to later see that the dates changes the context.

Did Salesforce have a PR campaign against human trafficking and prostitution before or after Backpage got seized by U.S. authorities in April 2018? Before or after Backpage became a customer? Before or after the adult section? Before or after it was generally known to include sex trafficking (which given a glance on the wikipedia article is sometimes around 2012-ish?

The other question is why did it take U.S. authorities until April 2018, 14 years after backpage was launched and 6 years after it was generally known? Were they incompetent, a lack of resources, or what? Did saleforce has knowledge that the police did not, and if so when, and why was it not given over to the police? How long time was the investigation and was salveforce involved? Was it a legal grey zone and as such the opinion of lawyers was involved, which we don't know the context or dates of? Did Saleforce get advice from the prosecutor/police?

This case is interesting but to me almost all the important details are currently not public.


Can you just read the article? Almost all your questions are answered or linked to in the article.


Actually missed that they did say a date, which is... After the police seized Backpage in April 2018.

"The company is helping to sponsor an anti-human-trafficking event in April"

It also said its nonprofit arm spotlighted groups that worked on the front lines of the issue in 2017, which could be said to be PR campaign but it is stretching the meaning of a PR campaign a bit.

"The lawsuit includes an order form billed to Backpage that’s dated in December 2016."

Which dates before the campaign done after April 2018, and after the nonprofit arm spotlighted groups in 2017.

So the dates did matter as I suspected. Saleforce did not first do a PR campaign and then elected to do business with backpage (as will_brown said above). They first elected to do business with backpage, had a nonprofit arm spotlighted groups a year later and then did the PR campaign after the police seized Backpage. That implies strongly that the PR campaign was a reaction to the police seizure.


I don’t think I said salesforce did the PR campaign before their business dealings.

It’s also not a legal requirement of the claims (it’s just facts that play well to a jury). The threshold legal issue is did salesforce know or should SF have known their goods/products were being used by backpage to facilitate human trafficking/prostitution.


Party A had done X and Y when it elected to do Z. I kind of read that as X and Y occurring before Z.

As for the subject matter if saleforce knew in 2016 what the FBI acted on in 2018, I don't know. It leaves me with several large questions, the biggest being about why the site lasted for as long as it did. The FBI received continuously information about child sex trafficking and prostitution, and had several court cases dating back to at least 2010.

From a moral perspective its an valid discussion to ask if saleforce should consider their ethical consideration of how their customers utilize their goods and products, but from a legal perspective I kind of look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backpage#Legal_decisions and see a complete failure from the legal system to tell the world if the behavior of backpage was illegal. It would not surprise me if saleforced did ask their lawyers and got a OK back.


Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


It assumes/alleges salesforce knew that Backpage was in human trafficking and they knew backpage was their customer at the same time, neither of which they prove or even attempt to prove.

Gonna wait on the courts for this one, so far its all too much implied and nothing for actual facts.


>It assumes/alleges salesforce knew that Backpage was in human trafficking and they knew backpage was their customer at the same time, neither of which they prove or even attempt to prove.

They haven’t “even attempted to prove their claims?” Have you read the plaintiffs Complaint? What do you think they brought the lawsuit for if not to prove their claims?


I guess I needed a "yet" at the end of that for literalists.

I stated "waiting for the courts" where they would prove their claims.

Specifically, I'm not going to form an opinion on an article with no facts


>Specifically, I'm not going to form an opinion on an article with no facts

It’s very odd you say the article has “no facts”, yet it provides dates for these business dealings, invoices and salesforce anti human trafficking/prostitution efforts...what do you consider a fact? Do you believe salesforce had no idea what backpage was doing and how salesforce products facilitated the same?

While waiting years for the court to decide, you should kno statistically there is less than 10% chance there is a trial that goes to verdict and >90% chance salesforce settles with a requirement of confidentiality and no admission/finding of wrong doing/liability.


>yet it provides dates for these business dealings

That isn't illegal, and doesn't prove what was known by the company at the time.

>and salesforce anti human trafficking/prostitution efforts

Which again, doesn't prove the company knew anything about the client or what the customizations are being used for.

So far we know that salesforce provided services to a company like it does many other companies. We don't know if it participated knowing the business/use case. Those are the facts I"m talking about.

So while you seemingly make your mind up on allegations without facts, I'll wait for facts or otherwise wait to make up my mind. If those facts don't come out, then my mind just doesn't get made up.


A lot of lawsuits are filed without the plaintiff being able to prove their claims.

Even as I speak, a California House Rep (Nunes) is suing a non-existent creature for social media defamation. Nunes cannot prove his claims.

Hell, we have an entire class of laws (anti-SLAPP laws) which exist penalize nuisance lawsuits filed for the sole purpose of silencing or harassing defendants.


How does one judge if Salesforce didn't take the profit from Backpage using its product to help fund the PR campaign against its shady practices? If that was the case, is it still immoral?


I'm not familiar with the timing, but it starts to look like the public campaign against trafficking happened BECAUSE of the involvement with trafficking, in a protest-too-much, absolve-my-sins, overcompensating type of way.


You might find this interesting: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust

There were a number of other companies that played both sides of the fence in WW2, including Coca Cola.

I agree, if they knowingly do it, then they should be punished as such. Especially in the US, if we are going to allow corporations to be treated as people for tax and legal reasons, then clearly they should be punished as such. When a person knowingly assists a criminal, that person can be punished for any range of crime from being an accessory to directly involved.


> Should we also allow Microsoft to be sued for all the criminals that use windows?

No, but what is hinted at in the complaint is that Salesforce did some kind of custom integration for Backpage:

> The women sued Salesforce Tuesday in San Francisco state court, claiming billionaire Marc Benioff’s company knowingly supported Backpage by providing customized database tools to market and remarket prostitutes to “pimps, johns and traffickers who had been underusing its trafficking services.”

I'm no lawyer but I imagine the crux of this is whether Salesforce actually did meaningfully custom integrations for this. If their team's interaction with Backpage was limited to, "hey I'd like to buy 10 seats" "sure that'll be $#,### per seat per year" I have a hard time understanding where there was true wrongdoing on Salesforce's part, aside from maybe a lack of situational awareness of what Backpage was.

If on the other hand they were actually building features designed to help Backpage keep more pimps on the platform (not sure what that would look like for pimps specifically vs. other Salesforce use cases, but just hypothetically) then yeah that would be really really bad.

It is kind of surprising this is happening....Marc Benioff makes a big show of being woke, and activist-journalists with a big audience such as Nick Kristof at the NYT have been writing about how bad Backpage is (was) since 2012-ish. You would think this one wouldn't get past Compliance.


If on the other hand they were actually building features designed to keep more pimps on the platform (not sure what that would look like for pimps specifically vs. other Salesforce use cases, but just hypothetically)

Yeah, I have mixed feelings about this article. I've read a number of things that suggest that Backpage was better for women, allowing them to market themselves, protect their safety, etc.

I'm for the decriminalization of sex work -- as described in the book "Working: My life as a prostitute" by Dolores French. She makes the point that legalization usually means regulation and it winds up being just as bad as or worse than being pimped. It winds up being done to benefit male clients at the expense of female sex workers, basically.

So I can easily see a situation where, in a world where the current system typically exploits female sex workers, trying to increase sales as your stated goal could deepen the problems of women who are already victims.

If you are against sex work, please try to help women access other work safely and at a living wage/"equal pay" (instead of or at least in addition to preaching about your opinions that sex work is a bad thing and simply shouldn't be tolerated). Women wind up trapped in part because it pays well and they often have little to no viable alternatives. If you aren't actively working in some way to help make it possible for women to adequately support themselves some other way, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I spent nearly six years homeless. There was no shortage of men offering to give me a few bucks to sleep with them. Meanwhile, I was mostly failing to get taken seriously in my attempts to earn income some other way.

There are reasons why I was able to still say "no" in the face of tremendous circumstantial pressure, but it made me very aware that a lot of women simply don't have enough wherewithal to just say "no" themselves. (There is some truth to the idea that you need a middle class income to be able to afford a middle class morality.)

I was briefly acquainted with another homeless woman whose solution was to move in with some guy she had just met in order to get back into housing. She apparently only spent a few days on the street because of making this choice.

It's perhaps a more polite form of prostitution to call him your boyfriend and not charge by the hour, but I've thought a whole lot about it and I would much rather charge by the hour than move in with some man for his money and wind up probably essentially being his prisoner. This goes double in the case of a stranger I've just met and know nothing about. Wow. That idea just scares the hell out of me.

Edit: Just for the record, I'm also against UBI, in addition to being against "legalization"/regulation of sex work.


"it winds up being just as bad as or worse than being pimped. It winds up being done to benefit male clients at the expense of female sex workers, basically."

I did an essay on legalization in college after a lot of research. I favor decriminalization, too, but I strongly disagree that regulation is just as bad or worse. The biggest problem I found was that prostitutes could be beaten, raped, and murdered with either no legal recourse or much less action by police. That's because people couldn't report the act or importance circumstances without risking jail time. Regulation, aka the circumstance itself is no longer criminal, might dramatically boost the safety and legal protections for prostitutes despite hardships it brings. What little data I had on regulated brothels here and overseas suggested they were way safer.


The biggest problem I found was that prostitutes could be beaten, raped, and murdered with either no legal recourse or much less action by police.

This is certainly a huge, huge issue that I would like to see go away.


>Yeah, I have mixed feelings about this article. I've read a number of things that suggest that Backpage was better for women, allowing them to market themselves, protect their safety, etc.

How much of that was from the EFF or other tech industry allies about avoiding any weakening of Section 230?

The actual way to make things safer for sex workers is what you mentioned, decriminalization.


How much of that was from the EFF or other tech industry allies about avoiding any weakening of Section 230?

I couldn't say. I can say at least some of it was first-hand testimony from former sex workers who likely had never heard of EFF or Section 230. They focused on things like what a mess their life was, why they ended up doing sex work to begin with and why they credit Backpage with "saving their life" by allowing them to check out clients beforehand for safety purposes, etc.

I'm kind of a demographic outlier for HN. I tend to run in different circles, so to speak, from most folks here. (I had to google EFF and Section 230 to answer your question. I didn't readily know what you were even asking.)


This is an excellent podcast episode that answers your question and is also fascinating: https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/119-no-more-safe-harbo...


Interesting to hear you oppose UBI especially given your experiences with homelessness. What's your reasoning?


Since I originally mentioned UBI in my reply, I'm going to clarify. Many people oppose UBI in the sense of not expecting UBI as the one solution to every social issue. From that POV, I also oppose UBI. In fact, I think everyone should be enabled to engage in productive and highly-paid work, as far as practicable. However we should acknowledge that people sometimes get stuck in poverty/welfare traps, that traditional forms of assistance are all too often ineffective and lead to people falling through the cracks. It's hard to see a solution to this that doesn't involve a UBI of some sort.

Edit: We should also point out that UBI does play a role in addressing the housing-unaffordability problem. Being stuck in a high-rent, high-COL place is a sort of poverty trap that is solved by enabling people to move to somewhere cheaper and seek successful work there.


We should also point out that UBI does play a role in addressing the housing-unaffordability problem. Being stuck in a high-rent, high-COL place is a sort of poverty trap that is solved by enabling people to move to somewhere cheaper and seek successful work there.

This is basically an extremely classist, racist and uninformed version of NIMBY that says "Poor people: They are allowed to exist, but Not In My Back Yard. Go be poor someplace else!"

It's a complicated issue and I've already written a couple of long comments and I have other things I need to be doing. But telling people we will cut you a small check so you can move someplace cheaper amounts to saying poor people cannot live in desirable areas with lots of amenities and have no right whatsoever to desire to do so.

I also have zero reason to believe it actually solves the housing affordability issue. I was willing to move to almost anywhere in the western US to get off the street and back into housing. I left California and moved to a small town in Washington. But it was extremely challenging trying to find a place to make my life work with affordable rent and no car.

I no longer drive. Even if I did, buying a car is typically the second highest household expense for most American households.

We just don't have a lot of options for a full and vibrant life without a car in the US. Living without a car requires a certain level of urban fabric so you can do your shopping etc on foot and via public transit. The lack of walkable places in the US is a primary part of the affordability issue.

It will not get solved by injecting funds into the system for poor people to use to cover rent. In fact, doing so likely makes the issue more intractable.

Real change is always hard. People inherently do not like change. UBI is a "status quo is god" answer when the current status quo has terrible problems that will not be fixed by simply giving poor people a few more bucks to live on.


One problem I see with UBI is that it may just act as a subsidy for companies like Amazon and Uber allowing them to pay their lowest paid workers even less.


I have a whole lot of reasons. It boils down to the fact that I think it amounts to rich people imagining they can cut a small check and make poor people shut up and go away rather than giving them real rights, access to the means to build wealth, etc.

Also, every time humans try to "share and share alike" like this -- socialism, communism, etc -- it winds up going bad places. Such idealistic schemes only ever work well when it is some small self-selected group of like-minded people. The minute it gets opened up to "everyone," it promptly goes to hell in a hand basket.

Articles about UBI suggest that we need UBI because automation is displacing workers and you can assume permanent high unemployment as a normal future state. The jobs that are going away due to automation typically pay $20k to $50k annually. UBI is usually posited as being about $10k annually or maybe $18k annually tops.

Such articles then go on to describe how wonderful it will be for people currently doing underpaid "good work," like social workers, to have UBI on top of their current meager paycheck. They never actually go into the dystopian scenario of 80 percent permanent unemployment, you getting a mere $10k annually with nearly zero hope of making more than that while rents, medical expenses, etc. remain just as high as they are today.

I think a much better solution is single payer healthcare and real solutions to the housing affordability crisis. Make it possible for someone to get free or cheap healthcare and a cheap, decent place to live where it is possible for a single person (for example) to support themselves working a minimum wage job or part-time at gig work that pays a bit better than minimum wage and a lot of social ills we see today will largely go away.

Here is a piece that I think does a good idea of outlining some of the issues with UBI. I especially like the phrase "California optimistic" in the piece:

https://medium.com/s/free-money/after-universal-basic-income...

It recently occurred to me that UBI treats most people as "consumers" and their "consumer" function as the only thing they can contribute to the system while trying to survive. This means UBI actively tries to turn people into parasites.

We need to integrate people into the body of the nation as productive, responsible citizens, even if they don't produce very much. There is no end to how much people can spend, as evidenced by the fact that about 2/3 of lottery winners wind up bankrupt within five years from what I gather.


> I think it amounts to rich people imagining they can cut a small check and make poor people shut up and go away rather than giving them real rights

This reminds me of the dystopian option in Manna http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm


> Also, every time humans try to "share and share alike" like this -- socialism, communism, etc -- it winds up going bad places.

How do you reconcile that with the quite successful Scandinavian (and to a lesser extent Canadian and other) examples of quite left/socialist leaning societies?

I hear this argument ("It just doesn't work!") quite often but it sounds to me to be just parroting far-right propaganda, and selectively looking at evidence that supports that line of thinking (eg russia/china which have a lot of issues that aren't really tied to the left/right spectrum).

[edit] I actually like the reasonable approach you're taking in the rest of your comment :) I'm just picking at that one statement as I see it fairly often and really have a hard time understanding it.


From what I've read, they do things in line with what I advocate, such as making healthcare available to all, not free money for existing.


Interesting angle, thanks for the post.


> She makes the point that legalization usually means regulation and it winds up being just as bad as or worse than being pimped. ...

I'm pretty sure that "keep people who are in duress from entering this particular line of business" would be part of any meaningful regulation of sex work. If there's no feasible regulation that can achieve this (something I'm not sure about one way or the other) then we should avoid de-regulation and just keep the status quo. I agree that the broader issue of "what to do about people who are shut out of the labor market or stuck in dead-end, low-paying jobs" is quite relevant. UBI might be an important piece of the puzzle.


SalesForce not like Office 2016 where you install and use it. It's like Oracle EBS in that the forms, workflow, processes and etc needs to be customized for your business and use case. SalesForce has consultants and service people that help you with this. They are probably suing because SalesForce consultants or professional services help with the SalesForce setup/integration at BackPage.


There are lots and lots of consultants who implement Salesforce instances who work for themselves. Many do have certifications from Salesforce, but that doesn't make Salesforce accountable for their actions.


SalesForce also has professional services, which are SalesForce employees that help you with the integration. My guess is this is what the suit is about, the professional services.


Not the best delivery, but I think the question has to be asked. How much use does a tool take for the blame of those who misuse it?

We would all laugh at an article entitled "Criminals used PENCIL AND PAPER in dastardly crime to traffic women" or "telephones" or even "email."

Obviously the other extreme exists, when a tech company knowingly caters to an immoral regime, which is part of why I reject this blurring so emphatically.


Pencil and paper is too generic, that’s like “CRIMINALS USED COMPUTERS!” This is a more specific accusation. Not just any pens, criminals used UNI-BALL PENS.

Tools aside, I have mixed feelings on the Backpage shutdown. What I've heard through friends of friends is that for non-trafficked sex workers this was a service that helped them earn a living much more safely than being out on the street looking for clients. Losing it has not been good for them.

One of the side effects of outlawing sex work is that everyone has to operate under the radar - both the people working a job for themselves and the human trafficking rings. If it were a legal profession operating in the open, would we be in a better position to find and help the people who are being forced in to it?

Similar problems to what we've seen with drug prohibition and the cartels.


Read my comment below:

SalesForce not like Office 2016 where you install and use it. It's like Oracle EBS in that the forms, workflow, processes and etc needs to be customized for your business and use case. SalesForce has consultants and professional service people that help you with this. They are probably suing because SalesForce consultants or professional services help with the SalesForce setup/integration at BackPage.


I generally don't like the idea of blaming tool makers. However, this is a great example of a tech company catering to an immoral regime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust


According to the article, the lawsuit is predicated on the assertion that Salesforce did know how its products were being used. I don't know anything about the facts here, but if that's true, then it sounds like they might have some legal responsibility.

Unlike what you are saying, the case is not about whether or not Salesforce should have known they were supporting criminal activity. Rather, the lawsuit asserts that they did know.


> Should we also allow Microsoft to be sued for all the criminals that use windows?

When Microsoft has specific knowledge of which of their customers are criminals, and details of their criminal activity, and is actively engaged in the development of new features to support said criminal activity... yes.

My understanding of the article is that the allegations against SF are on that level. Very different from taking money, handing over a binary and a license (or whatever), and ending the transaction there.


> Then again, in lots of jurisdictions today, a landlord can be held liable for the tenant committing a crime.

Whoa, is that true? Can you give a citation for that? That seems insane to me.


https://realestate.findlaw.com/landlord-tenant-law/faq-landl...

IANAL, but a simple google for something like "landlord responsible for tenant crime" should turn up loads of results on the topic.


I mean, yes, we allow that. You can sue Microsoft right now for any reason, and if the case meets the minimum requirements for standing, have it be heard by a judge.


It deserves an investigation at least to decide if it's worth exploring further and how complicit the company may have been. The courts can then decide and they may or may not side with your point of view. That's how it works in America.

Throwing out cases because they are difficult to persue or because it may cause trouble for a business is not how a justice system should work.


> (albeit a horrible one I never want to work with again).

As a current Salesforce developer this hits home. I cannot wait to get out and back to using real platforms and languages.

I'll honestly write any language at this point just not to do SFDC.


Should we prosecute a shopkeeper who sells alcohol to an adult knowing that adult is buying it for someone underage?

Do we prosecute bartenders who serve alcohol to people who are drunk and they know are going to drive home?

Yes we do.

Stupid laws aren't always stupid.


> Stupid laws are stupid. If person A is legally responsible for person B's actions, they will necessarily start asserting control over person B's life.

Well, apparently the alternative is to subject person B to rather substantial ex-post punishment in order to deter them from committing crimes that they cannot pay meaningful restitution for. I think the option of shifting liability onto third parties that could meaningfully deter B before a crime is even committed might be preferable. It's the same principle that we use to mandate e.g. drivers to successfully insure themselves against some sorts of liability, before they're even allowed to drive.


> It's the same principle that we use to mandate e.g. drivers to successfully insure themselves against some sorts of liability, before they're even allowed to drive.

it's really not the same at all. drivers are liable for damage and injuries they directly cause in accidents where they are legally at fault. they have to purchase insurance because most people can't afford to replace someone's car or pay their medical bills if they cause an accident. we don't sue car dealerships for selling cars to irresponsible buyers.


Why should person A pay restitution for person B? Person A likely isn't granted powers of law enforcement and so has no means of preventing the crime.

How can person A prevent a crime caused by person B? They cannot. Situations happen. People commit crimes for the first time every day (shocking even close family members). People like serial killers (and many other forms of covert criminals) may go undetected for decades with those people having perfect records.

Since crime cannot be prevented by a landlord and cannot be completely avoided, what can that landlord do to mitigate their risk? They must discriminate. They look at groups which appear to commit disproportionate crimes (by whatever "metrics" they choose to look at) and then start cutting away. Bad credit, being poor, being the "wrong race", prior convictions -- the list of risks seems endless.

The law (with very good reason) prohibits this kind of profiling, but that causes a catch 22 in the mind of the landlord, so the discrimination simply happens in a less-obvious manner. Meanwhile, these people are shifted into bad neighborhoods and ghettos to become trapped forever and crime continues on regardless.

Since no crime is prevented (at most, its only moved elsewhere), the law is ineffective. That would be bad enough, but it also proceeds to punish the landlord and a long list of underprivileged people. The cure is definitely worse than the problem.


It would be illegal to discriminate against people based on race. But discriminate based on prior address... well have they lived in Roxbury, Oakland, Harlem, or the south side of Chicago? What prevents a machine learning model from detecting a feature based on the fact that applicants who used to live in those areas?


>Should we also allow Microsoft to be sued for all the criminals that use windows?

YES. YES. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! If Microsoft is complicit with the crimes.

What the hell is wrong with people?

Backpage wasn't a hammer that somebody bought from Home Depot and used to bash someone else's head in.

Backpage was actively and aggressively cooperating with human traffickers.

Backpage provided coaching to ad submitters on how to get around the bare-bones filters that backpage implemented.

Backpage refused to implement basic, industry standard, practices that would have practically eliminated the reposting of known, confirmed, undeniable cases of human trafficking ads.

Backpage stalled and obstructed any attempts to remove known, confirmed, undeniable cases of human trafficking.

Backpage lied and covered up the fact that they knowingly cooperated with human traffickers.

Backpage forced the skeleton crew, through quotas and the threat of discipline or dismissal, of community reviewers to overlook known, confirmed, undeniable cases of human trafficking ads.

None of this is supposition or innuendo, and none of this is an accusation. It is all fact, taken from Backpage.com's own internal communications and public testimony of backpage officials and employees.

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115shrg24401/pdf/CH...

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-1st-circuit/1728752.html

Why do people think that Backpage was "done dirty"? It is mind-boggling.


What the hell is wrong with people?

Two factors are at play here, although “wrong with people” may be overly harsh and is certainly unhelpful. First, a lot of people, myself included, think that prohibition of prostitution is a bad idea. Now I’d argue that in this case that’s a bit of a red herring, because we’re talking about sexual slavery, not sexual work.

The second factor is a little nasty, but let’s face it... a site full of “toolmakers” takes a strong stance against people who make tools being held accountable for the uses of those tools. What a shock. Now it’s not just that simple, because some people are legitimately concerned about the proverbial blacksmith being held liable for making hammers. Others point out that if the blacksmith specially made “head cracking hammers” for Big Bob The Headsmasher, then the blacksmith crossed a line. Others are ideologically or practically opposed to almost any regulation.

It’s a mess of people talking past each other, angrily. Personally I believe that BackPage was a bad actor, and as for SF I’ll wait and see what pretrial discovery turns up. Most people seem to be more interested in rushing to conclusions though, and fighting over hypotheticals, hence the high noise:signal ratio here.


Since it wasn't mentioned in the bloomberg article, whoever has been paying attention knows that shutting down backpage has made sex workers less safe and more dependent on pimps. Prostitution should be completely legal and brought into the light, not pushed into the shadows.


A very good presentation on the topic, by an activist with the Sex Worker Open University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJRBx0JjM_M

Even if I had found the content uninteresting, I would have still watched through the whole thing because of how well written I found it.


The issue of sex work seems only tangentially related to human trafficking. Prostitution should be legal (and regulated), but human trafficking really shouldn’t be.


The argument is that if a reasonable legal market exists to do things, there's less incentive for the dangerous/harmful ways to do things, hopefully to the point its not worth it. And I hope its fair to say that criminals are in the business of trading risk of arrest/harm for money, and an overwhelming majority of trafficking is for that purpose.

I'm not saying you'll fix it overnight, people still smuggle cigarettes as a form of tax arbitrage, but changing the market incentives absolutely has an effect on behavior.


There will never be a legal market for underage girls, slaves, etc. Some markets just shouldn’t exist, but demand clearly exists for them. Drugs are easy because the black market is so much worse than legalization, but that’s not the case here. There will also be a market for cheaper alternatives to legal offerings, and you can’t get cheaper than slavery. Contrary to what some people desperately need to believe, markets don’t solve everything. If someone wants a disposable prostitute, someone to abuse, someone underage, someone unwilling, they’re not going to care about legal avenues which don’t satisfy their desires.


> There will never be a legal market for underage girls, slaves, etc.

Tangential, but I feel there is always an effort to cater to part of these "dark" markets with as harmless as possible ersatz (underage fictional porn, dolls/robotics, etc), but there will still be a strong negative reaction from some part of the society trying to ban the ersatz as a slippery slope.

I get that for any action there will always be a reaction, it's just depressing that most of the public opinion will agree more to principled but inefficient moral stands than to efforts to move the ball in the right direction.


It’s a very emotional subject for a lot of people, and while like you I see ersatz products as a good choice for people who would otherwise engage in the real thing, I also know that it’s a hard position to promulgate. For one, there isn’t a clear consensus as to whether or not (for example) fantasy underage porn/dolls acts to reduce or increase offender’s likliehood to offend. There is the argument that it can be a pressure relief valve, and an argument that it reinforces tendencies and like any addiction will tend to build tolerance. When the fakes stop being effective then maybe all they achieve is acting as a kind of practice.

It’s known that poeple with violent, vivid fantasies for example, are at higher risk for acting out violently than people without them. Is it correlation or causation? We don’t know. So it’s hard to take this mass of uncertainty to a public that mostly wants to “hang them all” where sex offenders are concerned, and make a case for ersatz interactions.

Part of this is moralizing, part of it is true uncertainty, and part of it is understandable revulsion.


This has been studied with pornography and sex crimes and it seems like there are two main findings.

People who consume more pornography and more violent pornography tend to be more violent people.

And when societies are exposed to more pornography the number of sex crimes stays the same or drops.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_pornography


"People who consume more pornography and more violent pornography tend to be more violent people."

I feel like this is probably correlation than causation. It seems obvious to me that people who want to be violent are more likely to both fantasise about it and commit it. Further consuming any sort of vice to degrees well past the norm (pornography, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, video games, etc.) seems likely to be a sign of poor impulse control, which obviously means they are more likely to just be violent when they feel like it.

When taken with the fact that overall pornography exposure within a culture seems to either not impact or reduce the amount of sex crime I'd argue that desire to do thing causes both fantasies and increased likelihood of doing that thing.


~80% of human trafficking victims are sexually exploited [1]. So that seems alot more than tangential. I don't think anyone is arguing that human trafficking should be legal.

[1] https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-repo...


Full legalization increases trafficking and allows brothels, which are basically pimps who are able to operate legally. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/45198/1/Neumayer_Legalized_Prostitu...

The Nordic Model - decriminalization of selling, with criminalization of purchasing - protects sex workers from pimps and has been very successful in the countries that have instituted it.


Human trafficking is just another word for illegal immigration. It just sounds more sinister and it gives a way for anti-immigration folks to sound humane and pretend like they care about the trafficked people, when they really care about not letting them in. As long as you have inescapable poverty and hardship in some countries, and no legal ways for people to get in, you'll have human trafficking. The only way to stop it is to let people in. The harder you try to ban it the worse it gets for the trafficked, but as I said, their well being is not the true concern of anti-trafficking laws at all.

As for sex work, there's absolutely no good reason why it shouldn't be completely destigmatized, decriminalized, and treated like any other kind of work. There are some inherent risks, but if it's decriminalized they can be managed and brought down to acceptable levels. There are certainly jobs with higher inherent risks, like working in lumber, or oil rigs, or construction. For women who aren't savvy enough to make it on their own, brothels are a good solution. With decriminalization, the bosses in brothels can be kept accountable.


Human trafficking is just another word for illegal immigration.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking

"Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. Human trafficking is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim's rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation. Human trafficking is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another."

Please take special note of the last sentence.

There are certainly jobs with higher inherent risks, like working in lumber, or oil rigs, or construction.

This line irks me, though I don't know how to clearly articulate why.


> Human trafficking is just another word for illegal immigration.

No, it's not, because human trafficking can occur without crossing an limited-migration border.

As usually used, it's very close to the union of de facto slavery and sex work. (To be fair, those categories have significant overlap, but there's a lot of push to include the parts of the latter that aren't the former within the reach of of the term.)


You mean there are people being "human trafficked" in their countries of origin? Can you provide an example?


> You mean there are people being "human trafficked" in their countries of origin?

Yes; there are also people who are legal immigrants who are trafficked only after arriving legally (immigrants, even legal ones, are often a vulnerable population.) And, even when illegal immigrants are trafficked, that is also often post-arrival, not part of how they can immigrate.

> Can you provide an example?

The one that is most frequently features in media reports is domestic sex trafficking of underage girls; but there is a lot more (surprisingly good coverage of a lot of variations is found, for now, on Wikipedia's page on trafficking in California [0], which is flagged for excessive detail.)

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking_in_Califor...


I'm happily surprised that the model has been mentioned at all... it's worth diving into the motivation. The moral reasoning behind non-conservative, sex-positive proponents of the model is in asking: from the perspective of the buyer, how do you know the seller isn't poor or threatened by a pimp? How can you assume "yes means yes" when money is involved? Some people dismiss this question (in my experience "scoff" is a better descriptor), and it's a debate that should happen in good faith within the left-of-center.


That paper's methodology doesn't attempt to distinguish between increases in total amount of trafficking vs increases in destination of trafficking victims. As an argument against legalization, it's pretty weak.


I would agree with you only if those that choose prostitution are doing it completely of their own free will.

This means not only not being actively forced but passively forced through desperate circumstances.

I don't think our social safety net in the US is nearly strong enough to ensure that such passive desperation is not a driving factor in the decision.

The last thing in the world I'd want to see is a desperate single mother go to get welfare benefits and getting asked 'So...did you even /apply/ to the brothel down the street?'


Reply All had a great podcast about it [0]. Beware it's very depressing. The expert points out that shutting down Backpage will have a worldwide impact on sex workers.

[0] https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/119-no-more-safe-harbo...


Now that shutting down backpage made the hardline stance on the issue mainstream, this lawsuit is one consequence of that.


Seems like this would all boil down to knowledge and intent. I have no love for salesforce but it seems like a big of a stretch to go after a tools manufacturer.


There's a term for this kind of thing: deep pocket.

The folks actually responsible for the wrongs these people have suffered are likely imprisoned and are relatively poor compared to Salesforce.


As a tools provider, sure, it makes no sense. But aren't they also a big services company as well, like Oracle? Will there be some record of an engagement on how to manage these particular pages?

And it would also be nice of "journalists" would differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking. The cops, of course, are using the most inflammatory term possible to justify their actions.


> And it would also be nice of "journalists" would differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking. The cops, of course, are using the most inflammatory term possible to justify their actions.

This is a civil suit, not criminal, brought by women who claimed they were abused by traffickers, which was enabled by Salesforce.

I can't find a single reference to the police in this piece, and the article clearly states that the plaintiffs allege trafficking in their case. So the piece is exactly correct to use the term "trafficking".


It's not just "tools". It's closer to service, as they would have been aware taking money from a shady company. It seems similar to banks participating in money laundering. They could well have guessed what it was for, but closed an eye to it.

The case really boils down to proving that they had good knowledge of what was going on.


The entire 'sex trafficking' thing is a manufactured moral drama. It doesn't actually exist at scale. All the large 'sex trafficking' courts set up a few years ago have now closed due to lack of cases.

This is just the normal government/media cycle of using kids and/or sex in order to pass laws (ie, FOSTA/SESTA) to violate the rights of individuals and empower the state.


It's impossible to evaluate the legitimacy of this without more technical details. "Providing customized database tools" could mean all sorts of things.


I would think they'd need to demonstrate that Saleforce knew that Backpage engaged in illegal practices. Considering that anyone can signup for Saleforce through an automated system and begin using it, this would be difficult. It would be like trying to go after google because Backpage used gmail.


Salesforce allegedly helped them with their "trafficker and pimp database".

On one hand, that's Salesforce doing their job well. On the other, seems like they would know what's going on.


I mean, I doubt the criminals are using HUMAN_TRAFFIC_ROUTE and PIMP_QUOTA as column names. Past a certain point the logistics of a criminal enterprise looks just as generic as any other corp; It's kinda easy to see how Salesforce could be fooled


That would depend a great deal on what the database looked like. A "trafficker and pimp database" could easily look like any other CRM contact list.


That would almost certainly require them to be snooping on their customers' data, which would be a whole other scandal.


Craigslist would have been shut down if they hadn't closed down their 'lonely hearts' section. Backpage was essentially a craigslist clone right down to look and feel and allowed prostitution advertising, which was the main substance and content of that site until they were closed down.

This is another difficult free speech and enabling platform 'responsibility' area which is easily exploitable by both criminals (human traffickers etc) and exploiters of the law's grey areas (Those suing SalesForce). Like the Michael Jackson accusers there is a danger that widely circulated accusations presented as fact by the corporate media will greatly damage SalesForce's credibility. huge sums of money as compensation/hush money are at stake and there is much to gain and little to risk for accusers in the current climate.


To be clear, Backpage didn't get shut down for merely hosting prostitution ads. They got shut down for actively editing ads featuring minors to remove references to their age, money laundering, purposefully not reporting missing and exploited children, and few other things that showed they were not just a neutral party displaying ads.


https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investiga...

as always it's complicated when free speech issues are involved


I think the lesson here, is that by putting themselves out there as a beacon of equality and women's rights, Benioff has also made them a target for this type of attack. In other words, no good deed goes unpunished. I'm sure there were plenty of other vendors supporting Backpage.


This 6* Min. clip (gender equality in the workplace) with Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff is outstanding and apropos to this thread. Benioff is reassuringly pro-equality (women's rights advocate).

https://persagen.com/files/misc/benioff.mp4

------------------------------

Aside: for the techies here, in 2016 Salesforce purchased (Richard Socher's) MetaMind ... a superb group who continue to publish leading edge NLP/NLU papers ...

https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/04/saleforce-acquires-metamin...

https://www.recode.net/2016/4/4/11585854/salesforce-acquisit...

Very forward-thinking.


PG&E could be in trouble...

First, that big Camp fire last year; now, if it turns out they’ve been producing electricity that has been used by criminals... eek


"Starting in 2013, when Backpage’s growth stalled, Salesforce took on the web portal as a client and provided tools to help manage its “trafficker and pimp database,” resulting in Backpage’s resurgence, according to the complaint. The lawsuit includes an order form billed to Backpage that’s dated in December 2016."


Unless Salesforce was doing a custom deployment for them, this kind of revisionism is a non-story IMHO.

Just to give context, I work at an adtech company and to be eligible to speak to an account manager, the customer has to spend upwards of 10 grand a month. Rest are self-served. We dropped Infowars as a customer `after` we got to know that they had been a customer for a while.

Would not be surprised if Salesforce has similar tiers and has magnitude more customers than we do.


Big data will be used to identify, track, isolate, and then indoctrinate the most vulnerable members of society.

You will be shadow banned and gas lit into a pipeline that serves to supply the insidious demands of those who see humans only as resources.

We coders will unwittingly(poorly compensated) or wittingly(well compensated) algorithmically functionalize the pimp psychology and business practice into a system of sinister use.

For now it's just immigrants driving cars and delivering food, but you might guess what comes next.


Beautiful description of whats happening. Few can see what you describe through their lense of bias and rationalization


There's an algorithm out there looking for girls who don't ever get phone calls or texts from their dads...


This is very different from Apple or Microsoft (assuming they had iphones / windows laptops), they are B2C and are not managing individual customer relationships.

Salesforce is a B2B company and actively manages every relationship that they have with every individual customer, because lots of their customers are businesses that are willing to pay $10K/yr, $100k/yr or even $1M+/yr for their cloud products (why? the world may never know).

This means that "Customer Success Managers" are constantly reaching out to Salesforce's customers to up-sell them. Anyone who works with Salesforce knows that the salesforce folks are constantly schmoozing their customers for an up-sell.

This report shows that Backpage was no exception. So people at Salesforce were emailing, calling, customizing software for, taking out to lunch and making deals with a company selling child sex slaves online. They knew and took the money anyways.


I am most certain SF had no idea what was going on, and while any form of abuse is horrible it makes no sense accusing SF of helping in a crime where it's impossible for SF to know. It's like blaming a lawn gnome maker for somebody being beaten with a lawn gnome. Demanding SF monitors everything, or Google monintors all mails, to prevent criminal activity is causing more overall harm for society than those edge cases do. If not SF they could have used every other CRM with ease, I suppose, but SF, Google et al turning into the panopticon would harm everybody.


evil people can use money for evil, does that make money evil and thus we should avoid having money? then only evil people would have all the money

evil people can use guns for evil, does that make guns evil?

evil comes from the heart into the hand and into the tool

if we demonize the tool then we surrender it entirely to evil


On the one hand, they're probably not going to be seriously held accountable for supporting sex trafficking. Best case, the CEO gets uprooted, or they get a menial fine. Legislation to support bigger consequences would be great.

On the other hand, SESTA/FOSTA has had a chilling effect on any sexuality on any platform in the US. There's Facebook events for burlesque shows that are being removed by Facebook because the word "sexy" is included in the description. And non-profits that try to promote safer sex, support people in abusive relationships, etc are removed from social media or have their websites revoked because they have "sex" in the title.

Where's the middle ground? How can we create consequences for companies that act unethically without them then banishing all sex-related content?


By not making laws based on moral outrage but pragmatism. In countries where sex work/drugs/etc are legal - or at least decriminalised - it isn't necessarily done because the majority feel this is the right thing to do, but because of harm reduction after consulting with experts in the field. Similarly, if you want less dead schoolchildren, this one weird trick of highly regulating firearms seems to work.

Also, there are other legal avenues, see OJ Simpson's criminal vs civil trials (edit: this trial is a civil one. Not everything that is wrong has to be a crime to be punished, and not every court system has to work by the letter of the law like the US does.


The middle ground is to draw a clear distinction, both socially and legally, between sex and abuse. The criminalization of prostitution only muddies this line, and FOSTA-SESTA has served to marginalize and endanger both sex workers and sex-adjacent industries.


You can't claim to be as a Service if you don't want all the downsides associated with it.

You can sell tools as is (not as a service), and if it is used for nefarious purposes, your hands are morally and legally clean. you can seek to make that specific tool illegal, but until then, everything's fair game, e.g. you can try to ban automatic weapons but you can't charge companies for selling them.


It's a modern IBM punchcard case.


Seems like a bit of a leap to compare enabling prostitution (something that ~50% of Americans think should be legal [0]) to enabling industrialized mass murder and genocide.

Backpage definitely enabled trafficking in some cases knowingly or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it made sex work safer in other cases.

[0] https://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID...


I wonder whom did Salesforce annoy enough to warrant a media smear campaign against them.


I'm sorry but this sounds too much like conspiratorial thinking -- all bloomberg reporting on the lawsuit and other controversies surrounding the company (which are not that controversial by the way). And what you are saying in response is that it's a hit piece.


Yes, I am probably being too jaded here, and I really hope that I'm wrong, but after last few years of similar hit pieces against Facebook, Google, and other big, juicy targets, I can't help myself.


What ever happened to the Super Micro story that was denied by all relevant parties as well as uncorroborated by any actual proof? Certainly Bloomberg would never publish stories supported by questionable evidence would they? Considering that Bloomberg has the ability to move the market, such conspiratorial thinking isn’t completely without some merit. I am not saying this particular story is suspicious, but after Super Micro, Bloomberg has earned some doubt.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/10/22/super_micro_chinese...


anyone who's ever had to build anything on it.

but yeah this smells like an attack.


Is Apex still a thing? When I was at my first internship that environment was one of the only things that has ever made me consider quitting programming.


Yup.

a proper debugger is still not a thing.


Can you provide more details about "Apex"? Is this a staffing agency or a company? I'm also curious about what happened during your internship that made you consider a different career, if you don't mind and are able to share.


Apex is salesforce’s programming language for everything you do in the back end.

It’s like a bare bones Java.

I’ve been working in salesforce for almost 10 years and apex still makes me question if I want to work in software every single day.


As I recall (this was almost 10 years ago now), Salesforce had tools to allow you to make your own websites and custom integrstions based on Salesforce data, but you had to use this web-IDE for Apex. Apex is like someone saw PHP and JSP and decided that the best thing to do would be to combine the worst elements of both. Both the markup and iterative code components were non-standard (at least with PHP you embed code into actual HTML), and the development process and environment were not documented to any useful degree, since almost no one used it. I vaguely recall that a major version change happened during my internship as well.


They have money and Backpage doesn't. Lawyers just go after whoever has the most money, hope for vicarious liability, get a big payday while the Salesforce will end up donating money to an anti-sex trafficking organisation.


They have the deepest pockets, that's their only crime. That's why the lawyers are targeting them with an absurd lawsuit in hopes that it will make them settle instead of the bad publicity.


Don't know why you're being downvoted, but yes, this is a major factor on why SalesForce is being sued. Lawyers generally find the people "at fault" are the people where they can make the most money.


The people that were the raw materials of the sex trafficing.


Touche.


[flagged]


HN is a fairly socially liberal site.


Not on gender issues it isn't.

It's what happens when a space is very predominately male


The old media has been going increasingly rabid-luddite in general really as they lose relevance.


Benioff seems like a tool. He puts his name on children’s hospitals...it is possible to donate without people knowing, Keanu does it all the time. If you don’t hate Salesforce, you haven’t been paying attention. I’ve wanted forever to rid our company of anything to do with Salesforce, but I work with some people that can’t handle change.

This law suit seems like a money grab. Go after the deepest pockets, but I personally won’t shed any tears over it.


>it is possible to donate without people knowing, Keanu does it all the time

Seems a bit paradoxical that he apparently donates all the time without people knowing, but you seem to know...


Why do you care if someone wants to support childrens' hospitals? I personally think getting a building that could save the lives of children is worth putting a guy's name on that building.


You are complaining about someone donating to a children's hospital and being credited for it?


Judging from the following line "Keanu does it all the time", I guess you can get credit for it you just have to donate anonymously and then have others tell people about it :)


Not talking about Benioff but yes I can complain. If you are very wealthy you have to contribute back to society, that's not a thing to admire but to require. And if you donate only a small percent of your wealth, say 1%, I don't think you deserve more credit than anybody having a net worth of $10k donating $100, in fact maybe less, even if the absolute amount is way more.


>And if you donate only a small percent of your wealth, say 1%, I don't think you deserve more credit than anybody having a net worth of $10k donating $100

That makes sense if you view charity/philanthropy as a signalling device or a measure for how generous and good people are.

Doesn't really make sense if you care about the actual good/contribution done though. Ceteris paribus, someone with net worth 100k giving 10k is doing more absolute good and helping more people than someone with net worth 10k giving 1k. Not to say small donations don't matter or aren't commendable -- they can definitely add up. But there is "more credit" given because the greater amount of money is (presumably) helping more people.


Isn't that societal obligation codified as taxes?

> I don't think you deserve more credit than anybody having a net worth of $10k donating $100

Would you also consider this something not to admire but require?


>If you are very wealthy you have to contribute back to society, that's not a thing to admire but to require.

You're complaining about someone who does contribute back to society... seems somewhat misplaced/misguided.


> I don't think you deserve more credit than anybody having a net worth of $10k donating $100

Well $100 isn't worth shit in the big picture, so no, contributing millions is objectively more useful than contributing $100


Is this a Curb Your Enthusiasm reference?


“I just bought the prostitution module for my ERP, I hope it integrate well with accounting and procurement”

I am really curious as to how the developers justify taking this kind of gig.


This case is specifically about sex trafficking, which is coercive and distinct from prostitution. If you're asserting that sex-work is inherently unethical, and that developers have an obligation not to lend their services to it, you need to make that case.


Sex trafficking isn’t distinct from prostitution in practice. Human trafficking is part of the prostitution supply chain.


> Human trafficking is part of the prostitution supply chain.

Is that an inherent fact of prostitution or a function of prostitution's dubious legal status?

One could make similar arguments about ultra-violent criminal cartels and marijuana in the past. "Smoking cannabis isn't distinct from funding Los Zetas in practice"


There are indications that the illegal status of prostitution does not in fact contribute to more trafficking, but the opposite.

http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/45198/1/Neumayer_Legalized_Prostitu... "This paper investigates the impact of legalized prostitution on human trafficking inflows. According to economic theory, there are two opposing effects of unknown magnitude. The scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked women as legal prostitutes are favored over trafficked ones. Our empirical analysis for a cross-section of up to 150 countries shows that the scale effect dominates the substitution effect. On average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows. "


Interesting that this study accounted for regional differences between prostitution legalization regimes, definitely something that needs to be considered considering these kind of markets do not exist in a borderless vacuum.

Have to wonder if the scale effect dominating the substitution effect hints that perhaps the Swedish model is optimal for reducing trafficking wholesale while reducing harm (i.e. Johns need strong disincentives in order to not be terribly indifferent people in aggregate) They suggest that the Swedish model reduces the scale effect but not enough data to say if it increases the substitution effect.




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