Backpage.com taken down and seized by federal law enforcement

Backpage.com was taken down and seized by federal law enforcement, according to a notice posted online.

The FBI also raided the residence of Michael Lacey, a co-founder of Backpage.

Tony Ortega was a longtime employee and confidant of James Larkin and Michael Lacey.  Ortega was an employee of various New Times publications from 1995 until being promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the Village Voice in approximately March 2007, a position he held until September 2012. He earned this promotion for his vigorous support of Lacey and Larkin in their campaign against the Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. During his tenure at the Village Voice, Tony Ortega was one of the principal apologists for Backpage dot com. Several times he came to the defense publicly of Backpage attacking other journalists, law enforcement and Congress for seeking to get to the bottom of the online sex trade and Backpage’s facilitation of prostitution and human trafficking.

In one article dated July 6, 2011, Tony Ortega responded to a CNN report on Backpage dot com, using “junk science” from vested interest groups to make the sex trafficking of underage girls something much less than the national epidemic it is. CNN reporter Amber Lynn personally felt Ortega’s wrath when he attacked her after her exposé of child prostitution and Backpage dot com, aptly entitled “Uncovering America’s Dirty Little Secret.” Ortega wrote: “CNN leads the media’s mass paranoia. She has set out to take down a new target: Village Voice Media.” He criticized the broadcast as a “sensationalistic piece,” that he labeled “manipulative” as well as Lynn’s “involvement in a semireligious crusade.”

In the same article Ortega touted Backpage’s process of screening personal ads for illegal content. This is the same process that the Subcommittee criticized at page 17 of its report as serving “to sanitize the content of innumerable advertisements for illegal transactions—even as Backpage represented to the public and the courts that it merely hosted content created by others.”

The question remains, will Federal law enforcement hold Ortega accountable for whatever role he played for his former Backpage bosses?

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