Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Backpage.com shut down, about damn time

Getty Images Getty Images
Glenn Montgomery | 08 April, 2018, 02:50

A message on Backpage.com said the website had "been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center". According to The Republic, a Senate subcommittee said Backpage carried personal ads that helped prostitution and child sex trafficking.

The shutdown of Backpage has already caused a major stir, particularly on Twitter. The FBI confirmed on Friday that they had also raided the Sedona home of Michael Lacey - the founder of backpage.com - possibly suggesting that he played some hand in the issue outside of a misappropriation of his site.

Backpage allows users to post adverts to sell items, and carries ads for roommates, job openings, automobiles and more.

According to the statement on the site, other agencies taking part in the investigation include the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central California District and the California and Texas District Attorney's Offices. But Sen. Heidi Heitkamp celebrated the action, saying, "Today, Backpage was shut down".

"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", said Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris, an global anti-slavery group that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

The website has been an alleged haven for prostitution and sex trafficking, and a co-founder of the website was arrested and slapped with still unknown charges. After the investigation was published in January 2017, Backpage.com shut down its adult ads section. The law, however, does not, protect sites from federal liability against criminal law, like child-pornography laws.

Heidkamp pushed for the passage of Senate legislation inspired by online sex trafficking, which makes it easier for victims of sex trafficking and state prosecutors to sue social media networks, advertisers and others if they do not remove ads for sex trafficking and exploitation. The CEO of the website, Carl Ferrer, was arrested back in 2016 on pimping charges - suggesting that the leadership was well aware of the material on the site and perhaps warranting the backpage.com shutdown.

Justice Dept. seizes classified ads website Backpage.com and affiliated websites.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the seizure of the site was "an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking". This builds on the historic effort in Congress to reform the law that for too long has protected websites like Backpage from being held liable for enabling the sale of young women and children. The legislation would create an exception to Section 230, which would pave the way for victims of sex trafficking to hold websites accountable for facilitating abuse.

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