Federal Authorities Seize Backpage.com

Federal Authorities Seize Backpage.com
Rhett Pardon

UPDATE (Friday, 4 p.m. PDT) — The FBI confirmed today that seven people were indicted on 93 counts of several different crimes, including money laundering and running a website to facilitate prostitution, related to Backpage.com. The FBI also confirmed that agents raided the Sedona, Ariz., home of Michael Lacey, the founder of the company, and that there were 17 victims, both adults and children, who say they were forced into sex trafficking.  

WASHINGTON — Backpage.com was seized by federal authorities today.

Visitors to the classified ad site landed on a notice from the government announcing its seizure.

“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,” the announcement read.

Maxine Doogan, who leads ESPLER Project (Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research), told XBIZ that "todays government overreach is another invasion of  the private lives of the population and another step deeper into totalitarianism.”

SESTA/FOSTA was passed last month as part of a push to crackdown on Backpage.com and other sites that were accused of facilitating human trafficking. The bill would amend the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to roll back immunity that Congress had conferred on websites for the actions of users.

According to Congress.gov, the SESTA/FOSTA bill was sent to President Trump on Tuesday for his approval. 

So far, the chilling effects caused by SESTA/FOSTA has altered the internet’s landscape in the U.S. and beyond. Sites offering all kinds of adult content have made some defensive moves in recent weeks.

CityVibe.com and Nightshift.co closed their sites after passage of the bill, while Craigslist cut its personals listings and Reddit pared its messaging boards.

VerifyHim closed its discussion board and mailing list; HungAngels.com removed its forums; YourDominatrix.com, shut down all U.S.-based ads; and Pounced.org closed.

Other reports of closures include MyScarletBook.com and ProvidingSupport.com, along with YellowPages.com, which shut down its escort services and removed ads.

MyFreeCams also changed its “terms of service” to explicitly ban any transaction that involves an offering to meet a site member for tokens.

Social network FetLife.com said that it wasn’t shutting down; however, the site has eliminated consensual blackmail and financial domination cases.

In moves that likely will affect international users, Google Play updated its policy to ban explicit content such as “promotional images of sex toys” and “apps that promote escort services.”

In addition, Google Drive deleted explicit content and locked out users, and Microsoft’s terms of service were updated, banning the use of “offensive language” and “inappropriate content,” such as nudity that may result in suspensions or bans for users of Skype, Xbox, Office and other services.

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