On Friday, the U.S. government seized Backpage.com as part of a law enforcement action by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies after the site came under intense legal scrutiny for allegations of facilitating sex trafficking and underage prostitution.
An FBI official said that there was “law enforcement activity” at the Arizona home of Michael Lacey, one of the website’s founders, Reuters reported. The seizure banner on the website stated:
backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center.
Other agencies participating in and supporting the enforcement action include the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the office of the California Attorney General, and the office of the Texas Attorney General.
The website was the target of law enforcement scrutiny over allegations that “it facilitated sex trafficking and prostitution through its adult section, a controversy that took years to unwind and culminated in the arrest of the company’s CEO and eventual removal of the adult section,” The Verge reports.
The owners of the website have given tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats in recent years, including a Super PAC backed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the failed presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for governor in Arizona David Garcia, and the Arizona Democratic Party.
Ayshia Connors, the Director of Communications and External Affairs for the Arizona GOP, called on the Arizona Democratic Party and Arizona Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema to return the money they received from the owners of the website.