Justice Department seizes classified ads website Backpage.com

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Michael Lacey, a co-founder, and Jim Larkin, a former Backpage executive, had their homes raided by the feds ahead of the website shut down. If you try and go to the site, you'll be welcomed with a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation instead, which reads...

Popular classifieds site Backpage.com, best known as a hotspot for sex workers to coordinate meet-ups, was pulled down by the USA government on Friday afternoon.

The notice did not detail the reason for the seizure but noted that Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, as well as the offices of the Texas attorney general and California attorney general, were involved.

"The indictment contains 93 counts of several different crimes including money laundering and running a website to facilitate prostitution", according to CBS News, which has seen the recently unsealed charges against Backpage.

Backpage.com is an adult classifieds website that has received a reputation, whether deserved or unfounded, as a hotbed for sex workers and clients to connect.

More information is expected Friday afternoon. It said authorities plan to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.

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Heitkamp helped draft legislation passed by the Senate last month that makes it easier for state prosecutors and sex trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep sex trafficking and exploitative materials off their platforms.

Backpage has affiliates across the country and around the world, and by 2014 brought in annual revenue of US$135 million, The New York Times has reported.

Backpage and advocacy groups say the ads are free speech protected by the US Constitution.

In 2016, a Senate subcommittee launched an investigation into Backpage's role in child sex trafficking and found that it modified the wording of ads to delete references to children while still allowing the ads to stand. The bill is now waiting for President Trump's signature.

Three young women alleged the site facilitated their forced prostitution and filed a lawsuit. Most of its income is generated by ads for sex services.

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