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Some companies including H&M, IKEA, and Barnes & Noble canceled ads for publications owned by Village Voice Media. The California arrest warrant alleged that 99% of Backpage’s revenue was directly attributable to prostitution-related ads, and many of the ads involved victims of sex trafficking, including children under the age of 18.
Over 230,000 people including 600 religious leaders, 51 attorneys general, 19 U. senators, over 50 non-governmental associations, musician Alicia Keys, and members of R. M., The Roots, and Alabama Shakes petitioned the website to remove sexual content. The State of Texas was also considering a money laundering charge pending its investigation.
Backpage is a classified advertising website launched in 2004.
It offers classified listings for a wide variety of products and services including automotive, jobs listings, and real estate.
Backpage came under fire starting in 2011 for allegations that their adult services subsection was used for prostitution and human trafficking, particularly involving minors, and that the company took insufficient steps to prevent these practices.
The site included the various categories found in newspaper classified sections including those that were unique to and part of the First-Amendment-driven traditions of most alternative weeklies.
These included personals (including adult-oriented personal ads), adult services, musicians and "New Age" services.
In addition, they argue that by providing prompt and detailed information about postings to law enforcement when asked to do so (including phone numbers, credit card numbers and IP addresses), Backpage aids law enforcement in protecting minors from such activity.
They also contend that the prompt and complete production of this information results in more convictions for illegal activities and that shutting down the adult section of Backpage will simply drive the traffickers to other places on the internet that will be less forthcoming about crucial information for law enforcement.