For years state attorneys general have attempted to have online classifieds service Backpage remove adult services listings, to no avail. Yesterday, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested in Houston on a California warrant that accuses him of pimping children, according to CNN Money.
“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”
Calfornia and Texas participated in a joint investigation in which authorities from the two states said that through Backpage escort ads, they found adults and children had been forced into prostitution. According to the California warrant, Ferrer has known that his site is a “hub for the illegal sex trade” for at least five years.
In 2010, attorneys generals from 21 states asked Backpage to voluntarily remove the adult services section. The company declined and stated in its blog, “is disappointed that the AGs have determined to shift blame from criminal predators to a legal business operator in an apparent attempt to capitalize on political opportunity during the election season.”
The same year, Craigslist voluntarily removed its own adult service section. Craigslist also warned that people placing such ads would use other sites less cooperative with law enforcement.
The California warrant stated Backpage took in at least $2 million per month from October 2014 to May 2105 for adult ad postings in the state including postings featuring minors.
The state of Texas charged Ferrer with money laundering. In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas.”
CNN Money also reported the U.S. Senate held Backpage in contempt of Congress in March 2016 for refusing to comply with a subpoena involved in a sex trafficking investigation.