An anonymous woman, referred to in a Southern District of Texas complaint as D.R., sued Salesforce.com Inc. and Backpage.com Inc. for sex trafficking in violation of Texas and federal law. As to Salesforce, the filing claimed that the plaintiff’s compelled prostitution and trafficking was made possible by the company’s technology tools, operational support, and platform.
Wednesday’s lawsuit explained that Backpage was the largest sex trafficking website worldwide until it was seized and shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2018. That year, its CEO Carl Ferrer and the company entered into plea agreements with the DOJ admitting that Backpage had operated as a site for the sale of illegal sex since 2004. The complaint recounted several Backpage earning figures, including that from January 2013 through May 2015, the company earned approximately $346 million in revenue, with nearly $340 million of that originating from adult advertisements.
The filing explained that Salesforce offers customer relationship management software and support to companies to help them operate and expand their businesses. From 2013 until Backpage was shut down, Salesforce reportedly entered into “lucrative contracts” with the trafficking website.
“Through providing technology and support to Backpage, Salesforce succeeded in greatly expanding Backpage’s business to become the dominant force in online sex trafficking,” the complaint said. The filing further accused Salesforce of working with Backpage despite its knowledge that the company was engaged in criminal trafficking and that its own actions facilitated trafficking.
The lawsuit recounted that tragically, the plaintiff was trafficked by a man she met on a dating website who eventually fathered her child. D.R.’s trafficker reportedly “used a combination of force, fraud, coercion, enticement, alcohol and drugs to cause her to engage in commercial sex, forcing her to turn over all proceeds to him.” Throughout D.R.’s compelled prostitution, Salesforce allegedly assisted Backpage in expanding its trafficking business, the filing said.
According to the complaint, Texas and federal law permit sex trafficking victims to recover against both sex traffickers and those who benefit financially from its facilitation. The filing stated two counts against each company, jointly and severally, for violation of the federal anti-trafficking statute, the Trafficking Victims Protect Act and Sex Trafficking pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
The plaintiff seeks a variety of damages, including exemplary, treble, and punitive damages, interest, and an award of the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs. The complainant is represented by Fibich Leebron Copeland Briggs.