Salesforce sued over dealings with sex trafficking site

50 plaintiffs claim the CRM specialist helped grow the now defunct criminal website Backpage.com

Salesforce is facing a lawsuit which alleges the company profited from and knowingly facilitated sex trafficking on now-defunct website Backpage.com.

The suit has been filed by 50 anonymous women who claim to be victims and survivors of sex trafficking, abuse and rape as a result of the activity that was taking place on Backpage.com, a website that used Salesforce software during its operation.

Ironically, the lawsuit points to the Silicon Valley CRM giant's publicly promoted anti-human trafficking campaign at the time of its work with Backpage.

"Salesforce knew the scourge of sex trafficking because it sought publicity for trying to stop it," according to documents filed in the Superior Court in San Francisco. "But at the same time, this publicly traded company was, in actuality, among the vilest of rogue companies, concerned only with their bottom line."

Salesforce started working with Backpage in 2013, right around the time the website's numbers began to fall and the human trafficking accusations piled up, prompting loud calls from social and legal bodies to have the site pulled offline.

A spokesperson from Salesforce said that while the company is unable to comment on ongoing litigation, it is "deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products and take these allegations seriously".

The core argument from the legal filing contends that Salesforce publicly campaigned against human rights violations while privately supplying software to Backpage, the claim being that such services provided the "backbone of Backpage's exponential growth". It also claims that Salesforce "designed and implemented a heavily customised enterprise database tailored for Backpage's operations".

Backpage was seized by the FBI in April 2018 after investigations showed that it was guilty of harbouring human traffickers on its site who targeted adults and children.

The site was widely used like the popular Craigslist whereby users posted ads and listings to sell items, advertise rental homes and jobs but also had an 'adult services' section where the crimes took place.

Backpage's CEO Carl Ferrer faces five years in prison and is due to be sentenced in July.

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