Feds Seize Backpage.com And Indict Founder In Prostitution Crackdown

Glen Norman
April 8, 2018

According to the notice on the site, that was posted on Friday, April 6, 2018, USA attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department's section on child exploitation and obscenity supported the work in seizing control of the website.

Also a year ago, Senators Rob Portman, Republican of OH, and Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, oversaw an investigative report that accused Backpage of knowingly facilitating online sex trafficking.

Federal agents raided the Sedona home of Backpage co-founder Michael Lacey on Friday.

A two-year Senate investigation into online sex trafficking found that found that Backpage.com knowingly aided criminal sex trafficking of women and young girls, simply scrubbing terms from ads such as "Lolita", "teenage", "rape", "amber alert", and publishing them on its site. The FBI clearly feels that there was enough evidence to warrant the backpage.com shutdown, and insists that the site may have been used for nefarious purposes. It's a legal gray area as the agreement is made for companionship rather than sex, but the backpage.com shutdown was due to sex trafficking - which is a pretty cut and dry issue when it comes to discussing legality.

The banner says, "backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action" by the FBI, US Postal Inspection Service and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.

"Shutting down the largest online USA marketplace for sex trafficking will dramatically reduce the profitability of forcing people into the commercial sex trade, at least in the short term", said Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris, an worldwide anti-slavery group that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline. They singled out Backpage, citing dozens of instances in which minors had been trafficked via the site.

WASHINGTON ― The federal government on Friday seized Backpage.com as part of a law enforcement crackdown on the classifieds website that had come under fire because of its use as a marketplace for sex work. The DOJ alleges that the site has earned $500 million in revenue from prostitution since it was first created. After the investigation was published in January 2017, Backpage.com shut down its adult ads section. If this is true, it is a major blow to those involved in trafficking, as it shuts down a major avenues for people to connect with escorts.

Last month, however, the Senate approved bipartisan legislation called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. The legislation, featured prominently in the popular Netflix documentary "I am Jane Doe", amends the Communications Decency Act, which has shielded website operators from state criminal charges or civil liability if they facilitate sex ads or prostitution.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the seizure of the site was "an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking". That law protects internet platform providers from being held legally liable for what others post on their websites.

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