I normally would have written something today but there seems to be a spate of attacks on the mongering lifestyle. Backpage closed their adult classified section. This was done due to government pressure and the assumption of human trafficking. – Spanky
Backpage.com, whose executives and former owners beat back pimping charges a month ago, is shuttering its adult section over what it says is “unconstitutional government censorship.”
The Dallas-based media concern said that it had been under too much pressure from the Senate Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations’ sex trafficking inquiries. The inquiries found that the online ads portal “edits” content of ads that amount to solicitation of prostitution by “deleting words and images before publication.” The company, which lost a Supreme Court First Amendment battle and was forced to turn over thousands of pages of company documents detailing its business methods, said it fell victim in the same way that Craigslist did a decade ago, when it removed adult ads.
“Like the decision by Craigslist to remove its adult category in 2010, this announcement is the culmination of years of effort by government at various levels to exert pressure on Backpage.com and to make it too costly to continue,” Backpage told Congress late Monday,
The company added (PDF):
Since mid-2015, the Subcommittee has, for reasons unrelated to the legislative responsibilities of Congress, sought to compel Backpage, an online publisher of third party-created advertisements, to provide a virtually unlimited amount of information regarding the company’s core editorial decisions: what material it would publish and what material it would not publish. Backpage strongly believes that this core activity lies at the very heart of the protection against government interference afforded publishers of both print and online speech by the First Amendment. Backpage believes that the Subcommittee’s quest for this information is not for the purpose of informing the legislative work of the Senate, but rather is part of a coordinated effort to drive Backpage out of business.
The Senate wasn’t the only government agency attacking Backpage. Texas and California officials lodged pimping charges against Michael Lacey and James Larkin, the former owners, and Carl Ferrer, the CEO. The authorities accused them of running an online ad portal that facilitated prostitution and the pimping of young children into sexual servitude. But a judge dismissed the charges, saying they had committed no crimes.
Legal documents (PDF) in the case quoted kids saying they were forced into prostitution, with their services advertised on Backpage. The documents also said that that 99 percent of Backpage’s worldwide income “was directly attributable to the “adult” section. Between 2013 to 2015, Backpage generated $51 million in revenue in California alone, California authorities noted. (PDF)
Reaction to the news was vitriolic on both sides of the issue, and comes a day before Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer were to testify before the Senate committee.
“Backpage’s response wasn’t to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site. That’s not ‘censorship’—it’s a validation of our findings,” Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill(D-Mo.), who led the Senate investigation, said in a statement.
Emma Llansó, director of free expression at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said “The tactics used against sites like Backpage threaten speech far beyond what’s posted on online classified ad sites. When government officials move beyond the bully pulpit and conduct persistent pressure campaigns to achieve a result repeatedly denied to them in court, we’re in the territory of unaccountable government censorship that is anathema to First Amendment values.”
Original article can be found on Ars Technica.
Photo credit to krico.