The shutdown of the adult section on Backpage.com, one of the biggest classified ads sites in the world, took sex workers across the country by surprise on Monday.
The site’s founders say it has become the target of a government “witch hunt” after a Senate report alleging that Backpage was facilitating criminal activity by editing out terms in adult ads that could indicate prostitution or trafficking. They appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations this morning regarding the report. Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris has accused Backpage of being designed to be “the world’s top online brothel” and other critics say the site facilitates the pimping of and women and children. Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested in October on charges of conspiracy and pimping, which set off protests from sex workers who worried that shutting down sites like Backpage would drive sex workers back underground and leave them on the streets.
The abrupt end to posting adult ads on Backpage leaves many sex workers in limbo as those who don’t have a regular clientele wondering where they will advertise their services. Sites like Backpage and Craigslist don’t allow adult ads anymore and other sites like Rentboy and Redbook no longer exist.
Where will sex industry workers advertise now that Backpage doesn’t allow adult ads? What will the overall impact on sex workers and the industry as a whole be?
Carrie Nation, a Los Angeles-based escort and an active member of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, Los Angeles Chapter
Scott Cunningham, Associate Professor of Economics at Baylor University who specializes in the economics of criminal activity, and the intersection of technology and the law