Salesforce came under fire earlier this week when 50 women filed a lawsuit alleging the software company facilitated human trafficking. According to the suit, Salesforce “provided the now defunct Backpage.com with the digital tools to bring new pimps, johns, and human traffickers onto its website.” The kicker? At the same time this was allegedly going on, the software company “publicly said it was using those same tools to fight human trafficking.”
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for Salesforce issued the following statement:
“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.”
What happened, exactly? Well. According to the lawsuit, everything first started when “Salesforce took on Backpage as a client and helped the online listing site see exponential growth across three continents.” Additionally, between 2013 and 2017, Salesforce wrote tweets “touting that human trafficking was being fought with technology and big data.”
“Tell the public one thing; do another when no one is looking. Salesforce continued to collect and process data, which directly assisted Backpage in causing the sexual exploitation and brutal rapes of an untold number of sex trafficking victims, including the [women] in this lawsuit…The conspiracy accomplished an unlawful purpose by unlawful means…promoting and assisting human traffickers’ sexual exploitation of minors.”
As a result, the lawsuit accuses the software company of negligence, sex trafficking, and civil conspiracy.
Backpage and many of its websites were shut down in April 2018 as part of an FBI investigation. Eventually, Carl Ferrer, former CEO of Backpage, “pleaded guilty to facilitating prostitution and money laundering.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, in 2015, Yiota Souras spoke at a Senate hearing and said “Backpage.com is the biggest player in what has become the lucrative child sex industry.” Souras is a general counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. At the time, she said, “Because there are so many child sex trafficking ads on Backpage, our staff search Backpage first when a missing child is at risk of being trafficked.” She added that about 71 percent of the reports of child sex trafficking her agency was receiving at the time “involved ads posted on Backpage.”
Headquartered in California, Salesforce employs an estimated 29,000 people and averages more than $10 billion in annual revenues each year.