The arrests come after the government seized all of Backpage’s websites around the world on Friday.
The indictment was unsealed Monday after all defendants made their first appearances before a magistrate in Phoenix.
Enacted in 1996, the law provides legal immunity for website operators for content posted by third parties, so long as the operators weren’t involved in creating the content.
Lawsuits brought by women who had been trafficked on Backpage were dismissed by federal courts in Chicago and Boston because of the immunity granted by Section 230 of the decency act, as was a criminal case in California filed by the attorney general there.
This undated file booking photo provided by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office shows James Larkin.
An indictment unsealed in federal court in Phoenix Monday, April 9, 2018, charges Larkin, a founder of the classified site Backpage.com, with facilitating prostitution and money laundering.Backpage’s general counsel, Liz Mc Dougall, did not return messages seeking comment.Larry Kazan, who told the Arizona Republic he was representing Lacey, also did not return a message.“Although Backpage has sought to create the perception that it diligently attempts to prevent the publication of such ads, the reality is that Backpage has allowed such ads to be published while declining — for financial reasons – to take necessary steps to address the problem.”Backpage has argued that it assists law enforcement in tracking down victims and perpetrators of crimes, which some police officials have corroborated, and is not a participant in the advertising on the site.Some in the sex worker industry say that removing Backpage from the Internet takes away a safe mechanism for screening clients, and that the ads will simply move to sites outside the country, or to social media.10, 2017, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent subcommittee on Investigations hearing into knowing facilitation of online sex trafficking.In addition to the criminal counts, the government is seeking to seize 10 residences in California, Arizona, Texas and Illinois, 25 bank accounts and 35 website domains in the U. and 20 other countries.“Many of the ads published on Backpage depicted children who were victims of sex trafficking,” the indictment states.“For years, has been a major hub of sex trafficking, the place where some of our nation’s most vulnerable women and children have been bought and sold,” said Lauren Hersh, national director of World Without Exploitation.But Backpage had evaded prosecution, in large part by invoking the Communications Decency Act.But the indictment claims the site continued to be financed by Lacey and Larkin and two other co-owners who all retained operational control of Backpage.The indictment accuses Backpage of facilitating prostitution committed by those posting ads on the site, specifically citing 17 victims trafficked on Backpage, some as young as 14.