The Backpage Rabbit Hole Explained

News continues to ricochet around the world of the latest development in the wake of the brewing Backpage. And this has had a number of our readers asking why this is such a big deal.

With that in mind we thought it could be beneficial to break the Salesforce case down in order to better explain the details and offer a fuller account of exactly why it matters.

As previously reported, the lawsuit filed against Salesforce by 50 victims of sex trafficking pushes responsibility for illicit acts that occur via a web platform deeper into the internet economy as a whole than ever before in the history of online commerce.

Why it matters: The boundary for this kind of culpability has long vexed policymakers around the world, and businesses are eager for more clarity. If this suit by victims of the Backpage sex-ring succeeds, it could raise the specter of liability beyond the platforms themselves and implicate many other companies that serve evil doers like Tony Ortega’s former crime bosses.

Details: Last week, the trafficking victims filed a lawsuit in California against Salesforce, the enterprise software company, alleging it aided, the infamous classified ads site whose founders were indicted on charges of facilitating prostitution and the trafficking of underage girls for sex.

  • Lawyers had previously sued Backpage, which hosted the ads and is alleged to have known it was aiding the illegal activity, and Facebook, which they allege was used in trafficking schemes.

What makes the Salesforce lawsuit distinctive is its focus on a vendor providing a service to a platform, not a platform itself. The suit alleges that Salesforce “designed and implemented a heavily customized enterprise database tailored for Backpage’s operations, both locally and internationally.”

With Facebook now implicated in the crime of cashing in on Backpage’s scheme, a serious warning shot has been fired across the bow of those who might be tempted to rationalize and give assistance, indeed some measure of political cover, to such enterprises.

Tony Ortega acting as mouthpiece was a prime example of one such ‘useful idiot’. He, of course, is little more than a crank with a Twitter account but the potential implications of this new lawsuit could well bring Ortega and those like him into legal hot water.


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