April 6, 2018, Washington, D.C.
This Friday, federal law enforcement agents raided home of Michael Lacey, the founder of Backpage.com, and shut down the website. Some visitors to the site are greeted with the following alert. While others will find a broken site.
The alert mentions a press conference at 6 PM tonight where we will receive more information.
The website has been under extreme pressure and scrutiny for years for its alleged complicity in sex trafficking. The site has never been held liable due to protection from the Communications Decency Act. However, the recent passing of House and Senate bills would change all that.
While the bill has yet to be signed into law by the President, investigators say the site lost its protection under the Act by alerting posters to key terms related to child sex trafficking and giving posters the ability to rephrase their posts. Flagged terms include “Lolita,” young, teenager, and even “Amber Alert.” If this is true, Backpage.com facilitated the sex trafficking of children by helping traffickers get around screening tools used by their own internal security and law enforcement.
Florida Abolitionist has been in full support of legislative action against those who facilitate online sex trafficking, including Backpage.com and others. The large majority of the survivors we serve were exploited by traffickers using the site.
Please stay tuned to our social media channels as the story unfolds. We hope to know much more after the press conference tonight at 6 PM Eastern.
8:30 PM Update
According to CBS News, the Department of Justice issued indictments against seven people who run Backpage.com. “The indictment charges 93 counts of several different crimes including money laundering and running a website to facilitate prostitution.”