Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday that executives of the adult website, Backpage.com, plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination during a Senate hearing this week in Washington, D.C. Backpage.com has been the focus of an ongoing investigation by Paxton’s office in Texas.
On Tuesday, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing titled “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking.” A U.S. Senate report, released earlier this week, accuses the site of running ads that knowingly facilitate the online trafficking of women and children. Backpage shuttered its “adult” content in the United States just hours before the report was issued Monday.
The report’s main findings included:
- Backpage has knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its “adult” ads;
- Backpage knows that it facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking; and
- Despite the reported sale of Backpage to an undisclosed foreign company in 2014, the true beneficial owners of the company are James Larkin, Michael Lacey, and Carl Ferrer.
“Profiting at the expense of countless innocent victims by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is unacceptable,” Paxton said in a press release Wednesday. “I commend the efforts of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations against Backpage to stop these types of despicable ads from causing human misery. My office has worked nonstop investigating this site’s criminal activities, and we will continue to do so until Backpage.com ceases to be a threat”
Last October, Paxton’s office teamed up with its counterparts from California in the arrest of Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer and a raid on the company’s Dallas headquarters. California has filed criminal charges of pimping and money laundering against Backpage, while Texas continues its investigation.
Backpage.com said on its website that the government has unconstitutionally censored its “adult” content and invites guests to use social media to promote free speech.