By Natasha Bach
March 27, 2019

Fifty women have filed a lawsuit against Salesforce in a San Francisco court, claiming that the company facilitated “sex trafficking, negligence, and conspiracy” by providing tools to support the growth of Backpage.com.

The suit claims that Salesforce provided a customized database “tailored for Backpage’s operations, both locally and internationally,” which allowed the site to “market to new ‘users’—that is, pimps, johns, and traffickers.”

It further alleges that Salesforce helped Backpage “survive and even grow,” despite contemporaneous efforts to shut it down. At the same time, however, Salesforce was publicly boasting about its work to fight human trafficking.

The 50 women who filed the suit, identified as Jane Does 1 through 50, were reportedly sold for sex across the U.S. They claim that they were sexually exploited and trafficked through Backpage. “The Jane Does were forced, coerced, and made victims of sex trafficking by means of force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to themselves and others, including family members,” the lawsuit reads. “Salesforce committed acts at issue with malice, oppression, fraud, and duress.” They are seeking unspecified damages.

Lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Annie McAdams, told CNBC that “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 and procedures have to reflect that commitment.”

Salesforce declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying only, “We are deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products and take these allegations seriously.”

Backpage closed its classified ad site in April 2018 after pleading guilty to “knowingly facilitating prostitution.”

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