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Backpage.com shuts down adult ad section

January 15, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Backpage.com shuts down adult ad section

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Backpage.com has terminated its adult ad section after two state attorney generals, and a U.S. Senate panel has shed light on its advertisements. The classifieds website has long been scrutinized for helping the promotion of sex trafficking, sometimes which reportedly involved minors. The CEO was taken into custody in October.

The company asserts that the government is censoring them using “extra-legal tactics” and that they are infringing on their First Amendment rights.

This week, executives with the website closed down the adult section. The company’s decision was revealed within hours of the publication of a “blistering report” from a Senate panel “charging that Backpage systematically edits its escort ads, filtering out words that would suggest the site was promoting the sex trafficking of children,” USA Today reported.

On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Paxton released the following statement:

“Executives of the website Backpage.com – which is the focus of an investigation by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office – invoked their Fifth Amendment rights during a congressional hearing this week in D.C. A U.S. Senate report, released this week, accuses the website of running ads that knowingly facilitate the online trafficking of women and children.”

James Larkin (r) and Michael Lacey (L) were charged along with Carl Ferrer in a pimping case in connection with international classified ad website Backpage.com. (Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office via Associated Press)

The site’s shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin revealed that they sold their shares in the company two years ago. In a joint statement, according to USA Today, they said: “Today the censors prevailed. But the shut-down of Backpage’s adult classified advertising is an assault on the First Amendment. We maintain hope for an unbowed Internet in the future.”

Texas AG Paxton said, “Profiting at the expense of innocent victims by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is unacceptable. I commend the efforts of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to stop these despicable ads from causing human misery. My office has worked nonstop investigating this site’s activities, and we will continue until Backpage.com ceases to be a threat.”

Backpage.com is an international “advertising” site and is considered the largest platform for adult escort services in the United States.

It accumulated over 90% of its profits from the escort ad portion, and in California, that amounts to an estimated $50 million in revenues earned between January 2013 to May 2015, or between $1.5 to $2.5 million per month, The Washington Post reported.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris conducted the highest-profile human trafficking bust in the Texas’ history.

Carl Ferrer, the CEO Of Backpage.com was arrested and charged With pimping

The CEO of Backpage, Carl Ferrer, was taken into custody at a Houston airport after he arrived on a flight from Amsterdam. Harris now works as a U.S. Senator from California after winning the election in November.

When Ferrer was arrested, Paxton issued a statement saying the victims that are sex trafficked include both involuntary and voluntary participants. He referred to the site as a “deep-seated evil” and “modern-day slavery.”

The California and Texas attorney generals collaborated on a large scale investigation and discovered evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were coerced into prostitution. The CEO of Backpage consented to immediate extradition to California after he was arrested in Houston on pimping and money laundering charges.

There have been several cases where Backpage was used for the sex trafficking of children. On December 19th, a man in Houston pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a minor by posting classified ads on Backpage. He pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking of a child, and 27-year-old Deangelo Tate confessed that for three months in 2015, he advertised the prostitution of a 17-year-old female. He rented hotel rooms in Texas and drove the teen there. He took all of the money for trafficking her and would be physically abusive if she did not comply with his demands.

In October, a Texas woman, Nancy Cisneros, was charged with three counts of compelling prostitution and three counts of trafficking a child. Court records indicate that say she pimped a 16-year-old girl by posting ads for escort services on Backpage. Her crimes allegedly date back to late June 2015.

Additionally, a man was apprehended at the end of October for sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl in Florida.

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