In Taking Down Backpage, veteran California prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of the battle against Backpage. Through a combination of memoir and legal insight, Krell reveals how she and her team started with the prosecution of street pimps and ultimately ended with the takedown of the largest purveyor of human trafficking in the world.
Insider details from the takedown of Backpage, the world’s largest sex trafficker, by the prosecutor who led the charge
For almost a decade, Backpage.com was the world’s largest sex trafficking operation. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, in 800 cities throughout the world, Backpage ran thousands of listings advertising the sale of vulnerable young people for sex. Reaping a cut off every transaction, the owners of the website raked in millions of dollars. But many of the people in the advertisements were children, as young as 12, and forced into the commercial sex trade through fear, violence and coercion.
In Taking Down Backpage, veteran California prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of how she and her team battled against this sex trafficking monolith. Beginning with her early career as a young DA, she shares the evolution of the anti-human trafficking movement. Through a fascinating combination of memoir and legal insight, Krell reveals how she and her team started with the prosecution of street pimps and ultimately ended with the takedown of the largest purveyor of human trafficking in the world. She shares powerful stories of interviews with survivors, sting operations, court cases, and the personal struggles that were necessary to bring Backpage executives to justice. Finally, Krell examines the state of sex trafficking after Backpage and the crucial work that still remains.
Taking Down Backpage is a gripping story of tragedy, overcoming adversity, and the pursuit of justice that gives insight into the fight against sex trafficking in the digital age.
Taking Down Backpage is a straight-forward, factual account of the California Department of Justice’s, specifically Maggy Krell’s, efforts to take down Backpage and charge its founders and CEO with sex trafficking. The book covers an important part of the battle against domestic minor sex trafficking.
The story Maggy Krell tells in Taking Down Backpage is rather simple and barebones. Written in a very elementary, factual manner, I was never fully immersed in the story or connected to the characters. While it is clear that the colleagues she featured are smart and hard-working, you never come to really know them. The same is true of Maggy. When survivor’s stories are told, it is done so with emotional distance. I also thought that Krell failed to provide much context or include the backlash and resistance to taking down Backpage. Without these aspects of the story, Taking Down Backpage fails to have a strong narrative and connect with readers.
Where Taking Down Backpage fell short for me was the writing. I understand that Krell is an attorney, but I have never read anything written by an attorney that is this succinct. While I was happy that she did not write long, meandering sentences that are typical of a lot of lawyers, Krell’s writing lacked detail and failed to be compelling. Krell’s passion even fails to come through her writing. This relatively short book need to be beefed up.
Krell did do a pretty good job explaining the procedures of the (in)justice system for a lay person. For me, it was a bit too basic and therefore annoyed me at times; however, I realize that I am not the typical reader.
Overall, I found Taking Down Backpage to be somewhere between okay and enjoyable. I wanted to love Taking Down Backpage due to its subject matter and its importance, but it did not quite work for me. The story and writing needed work prior to publishing. However, I would recommend it to those interested in the subject and do not mind very factual writing.
Taking Down Backpage: Fighting The World’s Largest Sex Trafficker
Narrative Nonfiction; Social Issues
January 11, 2022
Note: I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher, NYU Press.
Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.