Backpage.com Seized By FBI [VIDEOS]
Backpage.com Seized By FBI [VIDEOS]
Yesterday a major victory was scored for those who are interested in shutting down a website known largely for being a 21st-century pimping outlet known as Backpage.com. The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the site and its affiliate sites and raided the co-founders home in Sedona, AZ.
According to the Arizona Republic newspaper the home of Michael Lacey, co-founder of Backpage.com, was raided Friday morning. This was in connection with a federal investigation into the site and its connection with human trafficking. Cindy McCain, the wife of Arizona Senator John McCain, lauded the move by the federal authorities. She and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have both been very active on the issue of human trafficking especially within Arizona’s Native American communities. Backpage.com evidently targeted pedophiles with preferences for Native American girls, leading the Navajo nation to specifically decry the exploitation of the young women in their community by the site and its owners. Mrs. McCain expressed her frustration with having spoken to the owners of the site in order to combat sex trafficking, only to have them say that they felt that they were providing a public service.
Evidently, former employees of the site spoke with Mrs. McCain’s task force in Arizona and explained how they would coach the writers of the advertisements on the site so that the site would stay on the right side of the law when what they were doing was, in fact, selling underage children for sex. Mrs. McCain went on to state her support for the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (aka SESTA). The law would potentially expand criminal liability for websites like Backpage whose prosecution has proven to be all but impossible under existing laws. The bill would allow sex trafficking victims to seek compensation from websites that “knowingly and recklessly” enabled their victimization as well as criminalizing any commercial conduct that “assists, supports, or facilitates a violation of federal sex trafficking laws”. The bill would also allow states to prosecute companies that are engaged in conduct that breaks federal sex trafficking laws.
Evidently, Mrs. McCain has been working for years to get the website to change its business model but the leadership of the company refused to change. Well, it finally caught up with them, despite the site getting rid of its adult ads section in January of 2017. Emails seized by federal authorities outline the language tricks that the site used to flag minors being trafficked on the site. Phrases like “Amber Alert” and “Cheerleader” were some of the linguistic cues included in these ads. While it lasted Backpage.com made their owners scads of money with revenues in 2014 being reported at $135 million according to a Senate report, and in February of 2015, the company was appraised at $600+ million. Employees who testified in the U.S. Senate stated that it was known throughout the company that the site was a conduit for prostitution of all kinds and one employee even referred to the company’s efforts to moderate ads amounted to “putting lipstick on a pig”.
I for one am with Cindy McCain, this is a HUGE win for those of us who would love to see human trafficking victims be able to sue those who facilitated their abuse for all those years and be able to possibly be granted damage awards by a court of law. To the owners of the site, I say that when they hear things like “You sure do have a pretty mouth” in prison-just remember boys you EARNED this.