Salesforce is being sued by 50 women who alleged the company profited by helping Backpage participate in sex trafficking, as reported by CNBC.
The lawsuit — which was filed Monday in Superior Court in San Francisco — claims that Salesforce’s data tools were utilized by Backpage and provided the “backbone” of its exponential growth.
“With Salesforce’s guidance, Backpage was able to use Salesforce’s tools to market to new “users” — that is, pimps, johns, and traffickers — on three continents,” the lawsuit claims.
A Salesforce spokesperson wouldn’t comment on pending litigation, but told CNBC, “We are deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products and take these allegations seriously.”
Salesforce is known to have a sort of social justice profile. On the same day that the lawsuit was filed, the Red Cross of the Bay Area named Salesforce 2019 Humanitarian Company of the Year.
Backpage was a classified ad site that was seized by U.S. authorities in April 2018. The site faced repeated pressure for allowing sex trafficking of minors and prostitution on its platform. According to the New York Times, some ads even featured coded language for minors.
Since then, the founders have been hit with multiple charges, including a 93-count indictment, as reported by WGRZ.
In 2017, the site ended its adult listings. This was highly controversial because although it claimed to target sex trafficking, many sex workers were caught in the crossfires. Advocates pointed out how the halt of Backpage’s adult classified ads would endanger sex workers.
The Guardian reported that Kristen DiAngelo, executive director of the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Sacramento, pointed out how the shutdown left many sex workers with no way to support themselves. In addition, Advocates also pointed out how the loss of online ad platforms leads to increased arrests of sex workers and sexual assaults.
Salesforce’s image may have already taken a hit with its stocks dropping by almost four percent since the news, as reported by Barrons.
Annie McAdams, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said, according to CNBC, “The evidence of Salesforce’s liability is overwhelming and the damages that have been caused to the victims and our communities as a result are monumental. It’s simply not enough to say fighting human trafficking is important. Internal policies have to reflect that commitment.”
The lawsuit was recently filed, and there are currently no further updates on how Salesforce intends to respond.