Where classifieds used to be, there was a notice saying that Backpage had been seized by the FBI. Earlier that day, she would soon find out, the Feds had raided the homes of Backpage co-founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. According to documents unsealed on Monday, the two, along with five other Backpage employees, have been indicted on 93 charges, including conspiracy to commit money laundering and facilitate prostitution.
Backpage says that the company blocks ads that involve minors and reports them to law enforcement, but the site has long been accused of enabling both prostitution and human trafficking.
Human trafficking, however, exists in far more industries than just sex: The International Labour Organization estimated that, as of , there were 4. Sex is just a part of the human trafficking problem, but it's the only part we hear about. There is good reason for this: There has been a sustained effort on the part of anti-sex work campaigners to conflate human trafficking with sex work, despite the fact that not all sex workers are victims, and many sex workers are just like L, who chose to work in this trade.
In fact, some sex workers say the ability to post their own ads on sites like Backpage actually helped them get out of trafficking. I didn't have to justify it to anyone.
For the very first time, the oldest profession has transparency, record keeping, and safeguards. Backpage did make their jobs safer. Online classified services give sex workers an opportunity to vet their clients first—and they allowed sex workers to trade information with each other about who to trust and who to avoid. People doing sex work because they need the money are no less desperate without Backpage. The data backs this up. As Angelina Chapin wrote in the Huffington Post , "A paper by Baylor University economics professor Scott Cunningham and colleagues found that after Craigslist created an 'erotic services' section, the rate of female homicides in U.
The researchers concluded that sex workers who advertised online spent less time on the streets, where they were more likely to face dangerous situations.
Craigslist shuttered its "erotic services" section in in response to legal pressure but, as L told me, "Removing access to [sex workers] is about as effective as preaching abstinence. Her data, however, which was widely picked up by the media, turned out to be false. After a series of court cases and the arrest of the company's CEO last year, Backpage removed the adult services section of their website, which also included legal job listings as well as a large for-sale section, with everything from cars to clothes.
It was super crowded. That worked for a while. Despite this, the anti-trafficking bills passed in a rare bipartisan effort. Only two senators, the progressive Sen.
And then, three weeks after the vote, Backpage was seized, indictments were filed, and L found herself out of work. There are other websites where L could advertise her services, but Backpage was the biggest, the best, and it's where her clients knew to find her.
She could turn to the dark web or to international websites, but, with no reason or incentive to work with U. You might also be interested in these: Anyone Need a Big Box of Condoms? I was ghosted by ghosts. All the figures quoted in the media come from a single source, a consultancy called AIM Group:.
They ignore major adult ad networks and mainstream ad networks that accept adult ads in their calculation of share of the domestic adult classifieds market online. And traffic, revenue and share-of-market numbers, even accurate ones, are no indication of how many adult ads on Backpage actually convert into a real-world transaction — nor what subset of those transactions are with a minor or someone otherwise coerced into a commercial sex act.
Backpage publishes about 3. Of the 9 million ads live on the site on any given day, about 11 percent, or just under 1 million ads, are listed in the Adult Services Category, according to McDougall. Backpage removes over a million ads a month from the site 1.
For which Backpage employs a team of employees. Only 2 percent of that 1. First, Backpage runs all classified ads submitted to the site through a keyword filter that scans for 26, different terms not all sex-related — this is for spam and fraud, too , and matches the ad credentials against phone numbers, email and IP addresses of ad posters Backpage has already flagged.
This part of the review process flags and rejects a little over 1 million ads per month. All the ads submitted to the Adult and Dating categories dating ads comprise only 0. Neither are stripping, exotic dancing, nude modeling, telephone sex, webcams, and sensual massage, according to McDougall. Finding out which body rub ads are for body rubs, for example, and which body rub ads are offers for sex is not an exact science.
This person is clearly over age. Who posted the photo, how old the photo is, and whether the photo in the ad is actually of the person advertising adult services are complete unknowns.
Nor does Backpage maintain a database of previously flagged images to automatically detect duplicates. But exclusive data from Backpage reveals that was not the case in when Craigslist shut down Adult Services, at the time the largest adult classified marketplace on the Internet.
Classified sites that move their operations overseas are under no obligation to cooperate with the NCMEC, and may take months to respond to subpoenas from U...