As total of 50 women have taken legal action against Silicon Valley software company, Salesforce, claiming it enabled sex trafficking and child abuse by providing sales and marketing software to backpage.com.
The website was shut down in 2018 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allowing human trafficking and money laundering activities to take place on its site.
Backpage.com chief executive Carl Ferrer, who is due to be sentenced at the end of July, faces five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, money laundering and facilitating prostitution.
Salesforce is accused of profiting from this criminal activity while simultaneously publicly supporting human trafficking charities.
According to The Telegraph, Salesforce’s most recent contract with the site was made in 2016 – this deal included 155 licenses worth $291,000.
The claimants say this money helped backpage.com raise more profit from prostitution by emailing prompts to post adverts. The women, known as ‘Jane Does’, are seeking damages for Salesforce’s role in supporting this site.
“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.”
The lead attorney for the women, Annie McAdams, said: “The reason Backpage was able to turn into a $500 million monster was because they had Salesforce behind them.
“Human trafficking has exploded the last decade mostly because of the internet. Big tech has played a role in this. What is shocking is the brazenness and the disregard for the basic operations of normal business.”
A spokesman for Salesforce said: “We are deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products and take these allegations seriously; however we don’t comment on pending litigation.”