Backpage has made more than a half-billion dollars in prostitution-related revenue, according to federal charges now levied against its leadership.
The well-known website was shutdown by an investigation into the practices that many allege have helped grow the human-trafficking business.
Seven men including founder Michael Lacey have been charged in a 93-count indictment that alleges not only did the site know that most of its revenue came from sex for sale — often involving minors. But that they helped make sure the real reason behind the lucrative advertisements stayed hidden.
In fact, it claims the company’s official policy on ads featuring child prostitution was to delete anything that gave away the child’s age. That, the complaint points out, did nothing to change that it was a child being forced into prostitution.
“It has long been known that Backpage has been a conduit for human trafficking,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner told BreakingAC on Monday. “ I am hopeful that their investigation will enable law enforcement to significantly reduce the incidents of human trafficking throughout the region and our country.”
When a teen goes missing locally, there are often worries they could become the target of human traffickers.
The Innocence Lost Task Force usually checks the teen’s social media history and then scours advertisements that not-so-secretly offer those who “look young” for sex. Several cases have led to Backpage.
Not only did the leadership at Backpage know and cover up the source of most of their revenue, but in one internal document, Lacey “bragged about the company’s contributions to the prostitution industry,” according to the indictment.
“Backpage is part of the solution,” he wrote. “Eliminating adult advertising will in no way eliminate or even reduce the incidence of prostitution in this country. … For the very first time, the oldest profession in the world has transparency, record keeping and safeguards.”
But the safeguards were to protect the advertisers, not the children that often were being sold for sex, according to the indictment.