Online sex marketplace seized by law enforcement agencies

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Sex marketplace website Backpage.com was seized by U.S. law enforcement agencies on Friday, as part of an action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to Reuters.

A posting on the website indicates that Backpage.com “and affiliated websites have been seized” (see screenshot in Twitter post below).

Reuters reports: A Phoenix FBI official said that there was “law enforcement activity” on Friday at the Sedona, Arizona home of Michael Lacey, one of the founders of Backpage.

Glenn Milnor, FBI Special Agent, and Media Coordinator, referred further inquiries to the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice will provide more information at 6 p.m. EDT (1000 GMT), according to the website posting, which said U.S. attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department’s section on child exploitation and obscenity and the California and Texas attorneys general, had supported shutting down the website.

 Lawmakers and enforcement officials have been working to crack down on the site, which is used primarily to sell sex and is the second largest classified ad service in the country after Craigslist.

Backpage and advocacy groups have argued that the ads are free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) in March. FOSTA makes websites criminally liable for the content its users’ post, including ads for prostitution and sex-trafficking content. It gives the government the ability to go after websites that exploit women and children online, according to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the original authors of the bill.

The Craigslist personal ads section was pulled after the anti-online sex trafficking bill passed. The personals section included categories such as “casual encounters.”

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