After Backpage’s initial success, things started going downhill at a rather rapid pace. In 2011, the website started receiving accusations that it is in fact a platform for sex trafficking of both adults and minors. In response, the owners of the website started blocking ads they considered suspicious and provided all information on them to the NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). The organization then alerted law enforcement to act based on the data collected by Backpage. As a result, a nation-wide movement to boycott and shut down Backpage was born. In 2012, the movement started getting considerable support from various NGOs, who even launched a multimedia campaign to garner support for their cause. In the end, the anti-Backpage movement received massive help from numerous musicians, politicians, journalists, media companies, and even retail brands. The size and publicity of the campaign helped start a nationwide conversation, with people voicing their opinions for and against Backpage. With Backpage being the topic of many discussions and constantly in the public eye, legal action followed soon enough. The website received numerous legal challenges from parties who wanted to either remove Backpage’s adult section or shut down the website as a whole.
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The first major case against Backpage came when the website was accused of aiding prostitution. The claim was that it promoted sex services by allowing prostitutes to advertise on the platform. Backpage fought back, basing their defense on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It stated that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. The website’s lawyers also argued that restricting posts would be a violation of First Amendment rights. Another serious charge against Backpage included allegations that the website maliciously edited ads about adult and child sex trafficking, in order to make them safe for publishing. The website’s owners denied the accusation, stating that they blocked all suspicious ads and reported any cases related to child trafficking to the NCMEC. Due to the multiple ongoing lawsuits and an indictment by a grand jury in Arizona, Backpage was forced to shut down its adult section for good. Despite that, however, government pressure and lawsuits continued to pile up in the following years. On April 5th, 2017, Backpage co-founder and CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested on charges of money laundering and facilitating prostitution. Ferrer pleaded guilty to both. The very next day, Backpage was seized by the US government. In the following days, the website’s other co-founders and employees were also tracked down and arrested.Visit our Website and Social Media.