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Fifty women are suing Salesforce, alleging the company profited by helping Backpage to engage in sex trafficking.
The women, referred to only as anonymous Jane Does, identify themselves as survivors of sex trafficking, rape and abuse — facilitated through Backpage. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Superior Court in San Francisco, paints a dark picture of Salesforce, which has long touted human rights and building technology for the greater good.
CEO Marc Benioff has advocated for gender equality in the workplace and better services for the homeless.
Shares of Salesforce fell nearly 4 percent Wednesday.
The lawsuit claims:
In public, including on Twitter, Salesforce boasted about fighting human trafficking using its data tools. But behind closed doors, Salesforce's data tools were actually providing the backbone of Backpage's exponential growth. 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.
A Salesforce spokesperson said 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."
Salesforce markets customer acquisition and retention tools for businesses. It's one of San Francisco's largest software companies, with a market valuation above $120 billion.
The lawsuit claims Salesforce built custom tools for Backpage, upselling the now-defunct website on higher-priced packages and additional services.
"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," Annie McAdams, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "It's simply not enough to say fighting human trafficking is important. Internal policies and procedures have to reflect that commitment."
Read the full lawsuit: