Feds seize Backpage.com, other sites in enforcement action

USA law enforcement agencies on Friday, April 6, shut down classified advertising website giant Backpage, long in authorities' sights because of its alleged support of human trafficking and prostitution.

Federal authorities pointed to internal e-mails they said showed that website actively edited ads with the intention of masking that illegal activity, not preventing it. Backpage employed an automated system that screened out words possibly indicative of illegal activity, rather than passing that information on to law enforcement, investigators concluded.

The charges against Lacey were laid out in a 93 count sealed indictment, The Republic reported.

Backpage.com provides a place for people to sell items, seek roommates, list upcoming events or advertise jobs openings. It also has had listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.

Lacey established his career founding a network of alternative weeklies across the USA, and is a former owner of the Village Voice, and the Phoenix New Times.

The website Backpage.com has been under investigation for several years amid allegations it was used to facilitate prostitution and money laundering.

In 2016, Backpage's CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested in Houston on pimping charges, states NPR; they were later dismissed.

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Screenshot of backpage.ca website on April 6, 2018. On Friday an electronic sticker was slapped onto the online classified ad site, stating it has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. postal inspectors and the IRS.

More information is expected Friday afternoon.

"Today, Backpage was shutdown". It's a huge step. McCain in the statement called the website a "malicious sex marketplace".

However, supporters of the site believe the government has struck a blow against freedom of speech, and Morgan M. Page, a writer on gender issues, says now, sex workers' lives are in danger. The bill passed the Senate in an overwhelming 97-2 vote this week and will now head to President Trump's desk for him to sign into law.

"Shutting down the largest online US marketplace for sex trafficking will dramatically reduce the profitability of forcing people into the commercial sex trade, at least in the short term", Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris, an worldwide anti-slavery group, told the media. Backpage earned $135 million in 2014, according to a U.S. Senate report.

The Supreme Court in January 2017 refused to consider reviving a lawsuit against Backpage that was filed by three young women, who accused it of facilitating their forced prostitution. Embedded within adult sex ads on websites are a certain number of solicitations for children, anti-sex-trafficking groups have said.


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