April 9, 2018, Phoenix, AZ
Michael Lacey, the co-founder of Backpage.com, has been arrested and the website has been shut down by federal and state law enforcement.
Backpage.com is the 2nd most popular classifieds site behind Craigslist. The site has become synonymous with sex ads and has been a hotbed of sex trafficking.
The arrest is a culmination of a federal human trafficking investigation. Lacey faces 93 counts of charges that include facilitating human trafficking. The indictment is currently sealed, so we do not have much information regarding the charges.
Law enforcement locked down the website and raided Lacey’s home and every Backpage office around the world.
Cindy McCain, a longtime advocate for trafficking victims said the seizure of Backpage means “the federal government means business now.”
“I think that’s a clear message to other entities around the country that do the same thing that this is no longer going to be tolerated,” McCain said.
The website has been under extreme pressure for years. The Netflix documentary “I Am Jane Doe” brought the story of three sex trafficking victims who were posted on the site to the forefront as it told their stories to fight for justice. For too long, websites who have been complicit have escaped prosecution claiming they are not responsible for what users post.
It is expected that the President will sign a bill into law this week or next that will change this. The new law will hold internet services accountable for what is posted on their sites. This goes for Backpage and any other platform on the web.
When Craigslist shut down its adult section in 2010, Backpage founders saw an opportunity. “Craig killed his adult section last night in all US markets,” read an October 2010 e-mail from co-founder Carl Ferrer to Michael Lacey. “It is an opportunity for us.”
The shutdown of Backpage leaves a similar hole that we expect will be filled by another very soon. However, for now, a massive platform that was used to exploit numerous victims is closed for business. Children that were being sold on the site are no longer being exploited so easily.
If another service dares to step in to fill the gap left by Backpage, it will be held accountable under the new law. John McCain said, “Today’s action sends a strong message to Backpage and any other company facilitating online sex trafficking that they will be held accountable for these horrific crimes.”
We are grateful that fewer victims will be exploited and justice is being done! The war is not over, but a major battle has been won!
by Blair Pippin • Creative & Prevention Director