A screen shot of the website Backpage.com is seen April 6, 2018, in Los Angeles. According to CNBC, an Federal Bureau of Investigation official in Phoenix stated that "law enforcement activity" had taken place at the home of one of Backpage's founders, Michael Lacey.
This Backpage seizure comes just two weeks after Craigslist eliminated their personal ads following Congress' passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which repealed a previous law that provided "legal protection to websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims". But Sen. Heidi Heitkamp celebrated the action, saying, "Today, Backpage was shut down". The FBI alleges, too, that the site was used to facilitate sex with underage girls.
But the site has since then faced a slew of other lawsuits alleging child sex trafficking.
The charges that led to the backpage.com shutdown were filed in Arizona, because that is where the website is founded and where the servers are maintained.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department confirmed to CNN that the website has been seized and that additional information would be made available Friday evening. The DOJ alleges that the site has earned $500 million in revenue from prostitution since it was first created.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has told Congress that almost three quarters of the cases submitted to the center relate to ads posted on the site. 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. The law, however, does not, protect sites from federal liability against criminal law, like child-pornography laws. Authorities in California also added that 90 percent of the site's income was derived from so-called "adult ads".
In 2016, Backpage's CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested in Houston on pimping charges, states NPR; they were later dismissed. And in early 2017, Backpage shuttered its adults section - where sex worker routinely posted ads - while under pressure from the USA government. "Now, no child will be sold for sex through this website".