BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Backpage.com, the most popular website to buy and sell sex, has been shut down as the federal government crackdowns on internet sex trafficking.
Agents seized and froze the site Friday, just days after local police busted nearly a dozen men in Howard County for trying to buy sex on the site.
The frontpage of Backpage alerts of a full, federal seizure.
America’s largest classified website, referred to by law enforcement as the “World’s top online brothel”
is out of business for now.
“It’s a moral victory because the country is saying that it’s intolerable that corporations can aid and abet this kind of criminal activity,” Jeanne Allert, executive director of Samaritan Women.
Samaritan Women, a Baltimore-based organization works with survivors of human trafficking.
Allert says more often than not, human trafficking victims were bought and sold on Backpage .
“We track whether our girls have been exploited and retailed, specifically on that channel, and it’s in the 90 percent, so it’s a very common site,” she said.
U.S. officials report the site has earned $500 million dollars in revenue from prostitution since it was founded in 2004.
Just two days ago, Howard County police officers cut off some of that cash flow in a Columbia hotel. During a sting, they say they arrested 11 would-be Johns who were lured in by fake ads.
But not all cases have ended in arrest.
“Backpage.com, and other companies like this, must be held responsible for what they have created,” Yvonne Ambrose said.
Ambrose testified before the Senate last fall when she told lawmakers her 16-year-old daughter was prostituted on Backpage.
On Christmas Eve 2016, a man who found her online beat and choked her before cutting her throat.
“If there were stricter rules in place for postings on these websites, then my child would still be alive with me today,” she said.
Last year, a Senate report alleged Backpage “concealed evidence” of child sex trafficking by deleting words and images indicative of criminality.
The website remained shut down Friday night with detailed court documents still sealed.