January 12, 2017 | Online
There is now one less place for American escorts to advertise their services. Backpage.com has shuttered its "Adult" section in the US. The site said it did so following a government witch hunt.
"As the direct result of unconstitutional government censorship, Backpage.com has removed its 'Adult' content section from the highly popular classified website, effective immediately," the site revealed in an online statement. "For years, the legal system protecting freedom of speech prevailed, but new government tactics, including pressuring credit card companies to cease doing business with Backpage, have left the company with no other choice but to remove the content in the United States."
A recent US Senate report accused Backpage of hiding criminal activity by deleting terms from ads that indicated sex trafficking or prostitution, including of children. Founders Michael Lacey, James Larkin and Carl Ferrer are currently facing off against California's Attorney General Kamala Harris who claimed the men were making money off the avails of prostitution. (Harris recently lost a case against the three men, but refiled criminal charges citing new evidence.)
“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 said.
In a separate statement, Lacey and Larkin congratulated their efforts to augment law that protects online speech and privacy rights, and recounted their years of legal battles, including the recent prosecution attempt by Harris.
The men said they intend to sue Harris, who has since been elected to the Senate, for bringing the case despite knowing it “had no basis in law.”
“Today, the censors have prevailed. We get it,” the men said in their statement. “But the shutdown of Backpage’s adult classified advertising is an assault on the 1st Amendment. We maintain hope for a more robust and unbowed Internet in the future.”