Backpage.com seized by US authorities, FBI raids founder’s home
U.S Federal law enforcement authorities has seized the controversial classified-ad website, Backpage.com, the second largest online marketplace in the United States after Craiglist.org. Visitors to the site are now greeted with a message that said “Backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action” by agencies including the FBI as well as the law enforcement wings of the U.S. Postal Service and the Internal Revenue Service.s.
The site stopped operating Friday just hours after FBI officials raided the home of the website’s co-founder. According to Arizona newspaper, The Republic, the FBI raided the home of Backpage co-founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
Some members of Congress issued statements applauding the seizure. Minnesota Senator Amy said that “websites like Backpage.com facilitate sex trafficking across Minnesota and our country. The announcement by the FBI that they have seized this website and affiliated sites is long overdue, but another positive step forward in the fight against human trafficking. We must keep working to bring perpetrators to justice and get victims the support they deserve.”
Backpage.com is the second largest online marketplace in the United States after Craigslist.com. The website has faced a lot of criticism in recent years over its “Adult” section. The site was accused of using the “Adult’ section to hide seedy listings from sex workers including escorts, strippers, and phone sex operators. The story does not end there. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation accused Backpage.com of using its platform to bring the seedy street corners of America’s red-light districts to home computers. The organization went on to say the following:
A classified advertising website known as “the hub” for prostitution advertising, Backpage.com serves as a virtual auction block where sex buyers can shop for human beings for sex from the privacy of their home, office, hotel room, or cell phone. Many of those bought and sold via the website are sexually trafficked women and children.
Reports show that Backpage facilitates this activity by editing ads to conceal the illegality of underlying criminal activity.
Two weeks ago, Craigslist dropped its “Personal Ads” section over new online sex-trafficking law. The decision follows Congress’ passage of HR 1865: “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” (FOSTA), which aims to “subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully,” according to the site. Craigslist put on a statement explaining the shutdown of the “Personal Ads” section. The statement reads:
“US Congress just passed HR 1865, “FOSTA”, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully.
Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.
To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”