US officials take down website Backpage.com, but no one has a clue why
Till Monday morning, the exact reasons for the shutting down of the classified-ads site Baackpage.com are not known. The website has been repeatedly accused of enabling prostitution and sex trafficking of minors.
The indictment that led to a federal shutdown of the site, the seizure of its servers, and raids on the founders' homes was still unavailable for public consumption.
There are no entries regarding the case on the Pacer.gov site (a clearinghouse of federal case data), and the Department of Justice has given no indication when it will be made available.
Reports state that the authorities also cracked down on other affiliated websites after multiple raids.
One of the founders of Backpage.com and a founder of the weekly newspaper Phoenix New Time, Michael Lacey, was also charged in the case, bringing an end to a long-suspected human-trafficking investigation.
The website's homepage now displays a notice which states that it has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Postal Inspection Service (PIS) as part of an enforcement action. The notice, however, does not specify the nature of the enforcement action.
While speaking to the Arizona Republic, Lacey's attorney confirmed that his client has been charged as part of a 93-count indictment which remained sealed.
Reports state that lawmakers raided the houses of both the founders' in Arizona. The other co-founder of the site is Jim Larkin.
The crackdown on the website began ever since multiple anti-sex trafficking groups and state attorney generals said that it facilitated sex trafficking and prostitution. Reports state that a senate probe into the website concluded that it selectively edited words out.
Arizona Senator John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, who has been a vocal critic of human trafficking, applauded the action taken by law enforcement and said that she had long attempted to get the firm to not indulge in such activities.
"I’m sorry that it came to this. We had tried to work with Backpage for many years in an attempt to help them see that what they were doing was harming children and harming young women and young men. And we could never get through to them," McCain told the Arizona Republic.
According to Cindy McCain, federal authorities reportedly raided all the Backpage offices across the world.
The website allows users to create posts to sell certain items, look for a roommate, post job openings, list upcoming events and even participate in forums.
However, it is also infamous for listing adult escorts and other sexual services. Authorities have reportedly said that the sexual services advertising has proved very lucrative for the site.