LOS ANGELES — The Internet search giant Seo Services says its backlinks on Backpage.com, the world’s largest classified ad marketplace, have soared by over 30,000% since January, a trend it says is driven by the rise of the so-called “deep web.”
The Internet giant, which also owns Yahoo, announced Wednesday that it is ending its partnership with Backpage and launching a new service that would make it easier for users to search for keywords.
The announcement comes as the Trump administration and lawmakers seek to curb online prostitution.
Seo says it’s been working with law enforcement agencies, as well as members of Congress, to help combat prostitution on the Internet.
The company says that over the past year, the number of people who were arrested for prostitution has declined by over 60% in its cities and counties, and that the number that were convicted for prostitution dropped from more than 2,500 in 2016 to less than 300 in 2018.
The site is currently seeking more information on how it can improve its relationship with police and lawmakers.
Backpage, meanwhile, said that it has begun to address concerns about the way the site works and that it intends to begin rolling out more proactive policing strategies.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that a team of more than 100 law enforcement officials and law enforcement and social service experts, led by New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, have been working for months to address the problems facing online prostitution and trafficking.
It said they have also been trying to address questions about the effectiveness of the site’s efforts to combat online prostitution, which can lead to human trafficking, child exploitation, and trafficking in persons.
It’s unclear when the new service will launch, but the company said it would likely be rolled out this year.
In an e-mail to customers, Seo said it will be able to provide more detailed information about its partnership in the coming weeks.
“The partnership is focused on improving the relationship with law officers and the communities we serve,” the e-mails said.
“We hope to begin offering this service in 2019.”
Seo declined to provide specific numbers on how many people are arrested for sex trafficking on the site.
In January, the company suspended its service with BackPage.com after a number of users reported that their searches turned up illegal or illegal ads for sex.
In February, the website shut down its ads and redirected its users to a new site called “seo-services.”com, which does not require users to have a Backpage account.
Seos chief executive officer, Jonathan Gold, said the company will continue to work with police agencies to find out where illegal or otherwise problematic ads are appearing on the Deep Web, and to help them identify those who are using the service to advertise illegal activity.
“This partnership will give Seo the tools to keep the people we serve safe and secure,” Gold said in a statement.
“In fact, we will be using this new partnership to help protect our communities from online predators, to provide them with the best possible service, and, ultimately, to empower the people who use our sites.”
The move comes after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled earlier this month that the Trump Administration did not have the authority to stop the company from shutting down Backpage as part of the effort to combat prostitution.
The appeals court said the Obama Administration lacked the authority because the website was already regulated under federal law.
In that ruling, the court said that the Administration’s effort to enforce sex trafficking laws was not a “substantial interference with a neutral, reasonable exercise of the authorities entrusted to Congress.”