April 8 (UPI) — Federal agencies have shut down Backpage.com, a website of classified ads accused of enabling child sex trafficking.
A disclaimer posted to the website on Friday says agencies that included the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Division have seized Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.
Federal law-enforcement officers also raided the Arizona homes of two of the site’s co-founders, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, The Arizona Republic reported.
A bill passed by Congress that awaits President Donald Trump’s signature would enable law enforcement to prosecute a website executive who, “using a facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce or in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, owns, manages, or operates an interactive computer service … or conspires or attempts to do so, with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.”
The New York Times reported there is a similar law already on the books that law enforcement officers have previously enforced.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement that the seizure of Backpage.com was “great news for survivors, advocates, and law enforcement in Missouri and across the country.”
After a U.S. Senate subcommittee filed a report determining Backpage.com hid information that indicated people were using the site for prostitution and child sex trafficking, the website shut down its adult section to U.S. visitors in January 2017. The site called government pushback to its services “unconstitutional government censorship.”