In an enforcement action that represents the culmination of a years-long battle by federal and state prosecutors to stop sex workers from operating openly on the Internet (under the guise of "fighting sex trafficking"), a coalition of federal law enforcement agencies on Friday shut down backpage.com, the most popular website for peddling "adult services" in the US.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the site began shutting down Friday morning as FBI agents shuttered affiliated sites around the world. A notice published on Backpage said it had been seized by the FBI, Postal Inspection Service and the IRS, according to the LA Times.
Federal agents raided the Sedona, Ariz., home of Michael Lacey, a Backpage co-founder. Investigators had discovered that, despite selling their interest in the site to a foreign company, the company's co-founders still maintained control through a network of shell companies.
Last month, Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), a law that holds the operators of websites criminally liable for the actions of their users. The law was vehemently opposed by the ACLU, which said it would hold the operators of these websites to an impossible standard. Before that, the state of California had tried to bring criminal charges against the site, but was stymied by the Communications Decency Act, which prevented state authorities from going after the site.