Backpage.com, the website known for its sex and prostitution-related classified advertisements, was shut down and seized by the FBI on Friday, according to reports and a large notice displayed on the site’s homepage.
“Backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division,” the notice on the site read.
News of the site’s seizure follow reports that the Arizona home of the site’s founder, Michael Lacey, was raided on Friday morning. “Law enforcement activity is occurring,” the Phoenix FBI told the New York Daily News.
Carl Ferrer, the Backpage CEO, was arrested in Texas in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. He was then charged in California on a series of counts, including pimping minors. Ferrer and other Backpage executives haven’t been convicted of criminal wrongdoing.
The site – which is already the focus of multiple criminal investigations – has prompted lawmakers to reconsider legislation that limits the immunity of websites for the actions taken by their users.
Members of Congress have also investigated the site for its alleged role in sex trafficking.
“This is great news for survivors, advocates, and law enforcement,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has investigated the site alongside Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, told the Journal.
Cindy McCain, the wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain, and an activist against human trafficking, told AZ Central that she heard that in addition to raiding Lacey’s home, every office of the site around the world was raided.
“They’ve confiscated everything and shut the website down,” McCain said, adding that Friday was a “good day.”
Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek a roommate, participate in forums, list upcoming events or post job openings. But the site also has listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.
According to the notice on the site, authorities will release additional information on the seizure later Friday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.