Backpage Shuts Down Adult Section after Government Pressure about Sex Trafficking


Won’t all of this just move somewhere else on the web?

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who led the bipartisan Senate investigation into the website, said Backpage’s move to shutter its adult ads attested to the damning evidence their team uncovered.

“We reported the evidence that Backpage has been far more complicit in online sex trafficking than anyone previously knew,” they said in a statement.

“Backpage’s response wasn’t to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site. That’s not ‘censorship’ — it’s validation of our findings.”

via LA TIMES, one of the world’s largest classified ad websites and a frequent target in the political battle against sex trafficking, closed its adult ads section Monday in the United States, claiming to be the victim of a government witch hunt.

The extraordinary move came shortly after the release of a scathing U.S. Senate report that accused Backpage of hiding criminal activity by deleting terms from ads that indicated sex trafficking or prostitution, including of children.

The abrupt closure came on the eve of the scheduled testimony of Backpage’s founders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, and the site’s CEO, Carl Ferrer, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ subcommittee on investigations.

The Senate panel issued the report after an acrimonious investigation. Backpage balked at a subpoena to turn over company materials to investigators, but the panel secured a federal court order to force compliance.

The Senate committee’s review of the company documents, totaling more than 1.1-million pages, found evidence that Backpage knowingly facilitated prostitution and child sex trafficking, according to the report. The business was highly profitable and experienced explosive growth, from $5.3 million in gross revenue in 2008 to $135 million in 2014.

To keep problematic ads online, the company edited them. One moderator said he removed material that was obviously indicative of prostitution but the post remained published. According to the report, the moderator testified under oath: “[M]y responsibility was to make the ads OK to run live on the site, because having to get rid of the ad altogether was bad for business.”

It was common knowledge at the company that ads in the adult section were for prostitution, one moderator said, adding that a co-worker used the site to procure prostitutes, according to the report.


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