The seizure follows the passage of a controversial anti sex-trafficking bill, which prompted Craigslist to remove all personal ads.
The FBI has seized classified advertisement website Backpage.
As of Friday afternoon, a note on the site reads: “backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center.”
According to the note, several other agencies played a role in the seizure, including the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, and the California and Texas Attorneys General offices.
The FBI said it would share more details about the seizure later this afternoon.
Backpage, for the uninitiated, offered its users the ability to post classified ads, with categories that encompassed geographical areas as well as subject areas, from jobs to real estate.
The seizure follows the passage of a controversial anti sex-trafficking bill known as FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) or SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act), which prompted Craigslist to remove all personal ads. FOSTA seeks to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and would hold accountable websites that “unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”
SESTA sponsor Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, has specifically taken aim at Backpage, saying it “knowingly facilitate[s] sex trafficking.”
Backpage last year shuttered its adult section over a US Senate report that accused it of facilitating online sex trafficking. “The decision of Backpage.com today to remove its adult section in the United States will no doubt be heralded as a victory by those seeking to shutter the site, but it should be understood for what it is: an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics,” the company said at the time.