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Feds seize Backpage.com, websites in enforcement action


Feds seize Backpage.com, websites in enforcement action


PHOENIX (AP) - Federal law enforcement authorities are in the process of seizing Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.
A notice that appeared Friday afternoon at Backpage.com says the websites are being seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
The notice doesn't characterize or provide any details on the nature of the enforcement action.
It says authorities plan to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.
Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek a roommate, participate in forums, list upcoming events or post job openings.
But Backpage.com also has listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.
Update:
The Justice Department today seized the website of BackPage.com and replaced it with a banner indicating that it has been seized by the government.
Backpage, for years, has been accused of accepting classified ads promoting prostitution which allegedly resulted in sex trafficking of both adults and minors.
The government, according to CBS News, issued indictments against seven people who run the website. “The indictment charges 93 counts of several different crimes including money laundering and running a website to facilitate prostitution,” according to CBS News.
In March, Congress passed the controversial Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which amends section 231 of the Communications Decency Act to hold online services responsible for the illegal activity of their users. Backpage was the main target of this law, though it affects any online service whose users might post material leading to such illegal activity. Some civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and  the Electronic Frontier Foundation, opposed the bill, arguing that it could lead to censorship. The bi-partisan bill's supporters included the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Consumer WatchdogEnough is Enough and other advocacy groups. It was passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress.
That new law, according to the group TechFreedom, had nothing to do with today’s seizure. “The bill’s sponsors insisted that Congress had to pass new legislation so that Backpage could be brought to justice, said Berin Sz√≥ka, President of TechFreedom in a statement. "First, they claimed they needed a new criminal law. But today’s domain seizure makes clear that law enforcement agencies didn’t need a new law to shut down Backpage; they had plenty of legal tools and just needed to make it a priority.”

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