Federal agencies appear to have seized control of Backpage.com, according to a notice posted on the infamous adult classifieds website late Friday afternoon. The notice doesn’t give a reason for the seizure, just saying that it is “part of an enforcement action by the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.”
Backpage has long been used by prostitutes to advertise services, along with all manner of more conventional adult advertisements. The company shuttered its adult section last year in response to government pressure.
An FBI spokesperson confirmed that “law enforcement activity” is occurring in a statement to The Verge, but didn’t provide any further details. The Justice Department has said it will provide more information on the action at 6PM EST on Friday.
Online ads for adult content have been under fire recently, following the passing of the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act. Viewed narrowly, the bill allows victims of sex trafficking to sue websites that “enable” their abuse, but it raises a dangerous precedent for suing websites over user-generated content. The passage of the bill led Craigslist to close its personals ad section.