But numerous adult listings were simply rerouted to sections of the site dedicated to dating. Though Backpage closed its "Adult Services" section in January 2017, the ads promptly reappeared in the "Dating" section, most recently with very little written copy accompanying photos of the males and females seeking dates. The notice did not characterize or provide any information about the nature of the seizure.
According to the indictment, Backpage.com was created by Lacey, Larkin and a third individual, referred to as C.F.
The site shut down its "adult" section a year ago under legal pressure, but sex workers had largely migrated to other parts of the site. Lacey, Larkin and co-founder Carl Ferrer (who is not a defendant in the new indictment) have been charged in connection to the website before, but this recent case has some pundits tired and anxious that it will hurt, rather than help, sex workers, whose livelihood might be undermined by the seizure.
Five of the defendants were arrested on Friday: Lacey, Larkin, Joye Vaught, John "Jed" Brunst, and Scott Spear.
However, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the US's Communications Decency Act said that publishers should not be held responsible for content created exclusively by their users. That law protects internet platform providers from being held legally liable for what others post on their websites.
Even though this is a big step in the fight against the sex trade, some undercover officers who work with human trafficking victims said it won't stop criminals from selling sex online.
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The 93-count indictment was filed days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down the website accused of knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. That bill is still awaiting Trump's signature, although it's already had an effect on other classified sites, leading Craigslist to pull its personal ads section.
"During these trips, which would generate as much as $2,000 in prostitution-derived revenue each day, Victim 3 would be forced to leave her children at home in the care of her pimp", according to p. 32 of the indictment.
The lawsuit represents a major takedown of a "gigantic marketplace of online prostitution" by directly targeting those who facilitate the crime, a Justice Department official said. They singled out Backpage, citing dozens of instances in which minors had been trafficked via the site.
Backpage and its founders have been the subject of intense investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in recent years.
"It's heartbreaking to read that Backpage artificially limited the reports sent to NCMEC about children trafficked for sex on its site", Souras said.
"What happened was we were able to take care of ourselves", she said. In the latter's case, the indictment references 17 different victims who claim they were trafficked through Backpage, with one victim reportedly as young as 14, the Washington Post reports.