Federal Bureau of Investigation raids Sedona home of Backpage founder; website 'seized' by feds

April 6th 2018                        CBS News

April 6th 2018 CBS News

Backpage.com has always been under fire because of allegations of sex trafficking and prostitution.

The disabled site's co-owner Michael Lacey's home was reportedly raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a tweet by Evan Wyloge of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. The company shuttered its adult section past year in response to government pressure.

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The Backpage.com website has been accused of conducting investigations for several years because it was used to promote prostitution and money laundering. But Sen. Heidi Heitkamp celebrated the action, saying, "Today, Backpage was shut down". Though the site faced heavy pressure from advocacy groups, among others, many defended it under free speech claims. They singled out Backpage, citing dozens of instances in which minors had been trafficked via the site. Many Backpage users and their allies are discussing the financial ramifications of the move, including the loss of funds used to purchase ad space on the site, with more than a few individuals anxious about refunds.

"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". If this is true, it is a major blow to those involved in trafficking, as it shuts down a major avenues for people to connect with escorts.

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The website Backpage.com was taken down Friday and seized by federal law enforcement authorities, according to a notice posted online. The CEO of the website, Carl Ferrer, was arrested back in 2016 on pimping charges - suggesting that the leadership was well aware of the material on the site and perhaps warranting the backpage.com shutdown.

Executives from backpage.com insist they are protected by the Communications Decency Act which regulates pornographic material on the Internet, and suggests that the law states that the sites can't be held responsible for content created by third parties.

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The seizure is a result of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 1865) that was passed on February 27 by Congress. He has said that Backpage knows it is accepting ads for prostitution, even though specific references to that crime are not present in the ads.

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