50 women are suing Salesforce, accusing it of selling software to an online sex marketplace that pleaded guilty to human trafficking (CRM)

Marc Benioff

  • 50 women who say they were sexually abused as victims of a sex marketplace called Backpage are suing Salesforce.
  • They allege that the San Francisco software company, known for its actions on civil rights, helped Backpage run its business by providing software and consulting services.

Fifty women who say they were sexually abused as victims of a sex marketplace called Backpage are suing the software company that they say helped Backpage run its business: Salesforce.

The women allege that the San Francisco software company — known for its support of women’s rights and other social issues — helped Backpage run its business by providing software and consulting services, as was first reported by CNBC’s Sara Salinas.

Backpage became notorious in the spring of 2018 when the website, known for its sex ads that included offering women and children, pleaded guilty to human-trafficking charges in Texas. The site was also facing federal charges and charges in other states. In April 2018, US authorities seized the site’s assets and shut it down.

The lawsuit alleges that Salesforce, while publicly decrying human trafficking and touting how it was helping to stop it, was also providing software and services to help Backpage grow its business.

The suit says:

Salesforce didn’t just provide Backpage with a customer-ready version of its data and marketing tools. Salesforce designed and implemented a heavily customized enterprise database tailored for Backpage’s operations, both locally and internationally. 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 suit also charges that Salesforce took on Backpage as a customer in December 2013, and it included a picture of an alleged invoice from Salesforce to Backpage for 2016 through 2018.

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A Salesforce spokesperson told Business Insider that the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but added: “We are deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products and take these allegations seriously.”

This isn’t the first time Salesforce has faced repercussions because of its clients.

Last year, protests erupted over Salesforce’s contracts with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency after the public outcry over how it was performing family separations at the border. Employees protested and demanded that the company cancel the contract with the agency. A nonprofit group that provides legal services to immigrants rejected the company’s $250,0o0 donation. But the company says its software is not involved in family separations.

Still, protests of the company over the issue persist.

Salesforce is a particularly interesting target for such a suit because the company has made itself a champion of human-rights causes, such as women’s rights and fair pay and LGBTQ civil rights, and it backs a new tax of tech companies in San Francisco that raises money to combat homelessness.

Earlier this year, the company also appointed a chief ethics officer and started an organization in the company, called the Office of Ethical and Humane Use, to develop policies and strategies to ensure technology is used in humane ways.

Here’s the full copy of the suit:

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