- Classified advertising website Backpage.com was seized by federal authorities on Friday afternoon “as part of an enforcement action” according to a notice on the website.
- The company is known for facilitating adult sex ads, and had been involved in a number of sex trafficking-related lawsuits, but the reason for the notice has not been shared at this point.
- The seizure comes weeks after Congress rolled out legislation to hold websites responsible for sex trafficking conducted on their sites; it’s the same legislation that forced Craiglist to preemptively shut down its personals section.
People navigating to the popular classified advertising website Backpage.com on Friday afternoon were stopped by a notice informing them that the site “and all affiliated websites” had been seized by federal authorities.
The site is known for facilitating adult sex ads, and has recently been involved in a number of lawsuits, including one in which a minor alleged that the company edited the contents of a sex ad that her trafficker posted, in order to make her sound like an adult.
Authorities — including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, five other federal agencies, and four state agencies — involved in the case have not shared the exact reason for the seizure. The Department of Justice declined to comment beyond the information in the notice.
The seizure comes a little over a month after Congress passed a law creating stronger rules and penalties to prevent websites from facilitating sex trafficking. On March 23, Craiglist preemptively removed its personals section in fear of violating the law, which penalizes wrongdoers with a fine, up to 10 years in prison, or both.
Previously, these sites have been protected under the Communications Decency Act, which says that sites can’t be held responsible for what its users publish on a site.
Here’s the full text of the banner:
backpage.com and affiliated websites have 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.
Other agencies participating in and supporting the enforcement action include the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the office of the California Attorney General, and the office of the Texas Attorney General.
Additional information will be provided at around 6:00 pm EST on Friday, April 6, by the U.S. Department of Justice, and all media inquiries should be directed to the u.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs at 202-514-2007 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 6, 2018.