DOJ Seizes And Shuts Down Backpage.com (Before SESTA Has Even Been Signed)
from the well,-well,-well dept
So here’s a Friday evening surprise: the DOJ has just seized Backpage. If you visit the site now you will see the following graphic:
It notes that additional information will be provided soon, and we’ll update this post when that occurs. But first, there are a few important things to note. Before and after SESTA was voted on by Congress, we noted that while supporters of SESTA kept pointing to Backpage as the reason we needed to change CDA 230, there were two reasons why we thought it was premature to make such a change. The first was that there was a court in Massachusetts considering whether or not Backpage had lost its CDA 230 immunity by being an active participant in creating trafficking ads. And the second, more important, one was that there were many reports claiming that a DOJ grand jury was investigating Backpage, and nothing in CDA 230 stopped that from happening (federal crimes are exempt from CDA 230).
And now the DOJ has seized the entire site, suggesting that the grand jury found the evidence it needed to take it down (we’ll reserve judgment on that evidence until the indictment is out).
And while SESTA has been approved by Congress, it is still not the law. The President is likely going to sign it next week.
So we have a pretty big open question: if SESTA was supposedly necessary to take down Backpage — and yet now both of the key reasons many of us noted that Backpage probably wasn’t protected have been not just proven true, but resulted in Backpage being seized — why do we still need SESTA?
We’ll be back with more later when the details are out, but for the SESTA supporters out there, let’s hear your answers.