Backpage.com shutdown by Federal Bureau of Investigation, seized by feds

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The company shuttered its adult section past year in response to government pressure.

Backpage.com, the website known for its sex and prostitution-related classified advertisements, was shut down and seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday, according to reports and a large notice displayed on the site's homepage.

The Justice Department declined to release more details about the case on Friday night because a court ruled it should remain sealed, said agency spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman. The site's controversial adult section has often come under fire for allegations of prostitution and the sex trafficking of minors. Embedded within adult sex ads on websites are a certain number of solicitations for children, anti-sex-trafficking groups have said.

The Justice Department spent three years investigating Backpages.com before Ferrer's first arrest, employing at one point an undercover operation aimed at confirming allegations that escorts ads were for the sole goal of buying and selling sex. Until this action Backpage.com had been the nation's second largest classified ad service; $135-million in income according to the most recent figures.




Some people said they did not see the seizure message despite links to the site not working, likely because the site's servers had yet to update.

To remedy that, Congress last month passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act authored by Portman that amended the Communications Decency Act to clarify that prosecutors and sex trafficking victims can take those website operators to court. "This goes beyond current law, which already allows sites to be prosecuted or sued if they knowingly allow posts that promote sex trafficking".

In court filings past year, Backpage revealed that it was being investigated by a grand jury in Phoenix, where the site was originally launched as part of the New Times alternative weekly newspaper chain. The bill is now waiting for President Trump's signature. The FBI confirmed that "law enforcement activity is occurring".

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