Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and advocacy groups have long called for an investigation into Backpage.com for allegedly facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking. The charges were filed in Arizona because the website was founded and is maintained here. No other additional information was provided. A two-year Senate investigation into online sex trafficking found that found that Backpage.com knowingly aided criminal sex trafficking of women and young girls.
The company has been targeted with several lawsuits over the years, but has been largely protected by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a legal protection that gives a broad layer of immunity to online companies from being held liable for user-generated content. Last year, a coalition of state and territorial attorneys general asked Congress to make it easier for state and local law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute online facilitators of child sex trafficking. In January 2017 the site shuttered its “adult services listings” section but many of the adult listings were simply rerouted to sections of the site dedicated to dating. Revenue at Backpage was $135 million in 2014. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the seizure of the site was “an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking.”