The History of Backpage Part III

This page was last updated May, 24, 2018.

The shutdown of Backpage’s adult classified advertising is an assault on the First Amendment. We maintain hope for a more robust and unbowed internet in the future.
— Backpage's statement on the adult censorship

Backpage 2004. Image courtesy of Wayback Machine.

Backpage 2018. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Backpage Dethroned & Beheaded (2017-present)

This will detail the end along with the events leading to the demise of the Backpage empire.

Women Seeking Men

Prostitution Still Thrives on Backpage Despite Site Shutdown of ‘Adult’ Section
— Fox News Headline

In 2017, Backpage had 943 location sites on 6 continents and operated in 97 countries in 17 languages. Backpage had endured many legal fights, and the government would soon implement a way to bring this online classifieds down - by writing new laws.

Adult to Personals

After Backpage censored their adult ads, sex workers simply just moved their business over to the 'personals' section. They posted in women seeking men, exotic dancers and body rub workers posted as massage therapists in services. This was their way of saying,

"We're not going anywhere."

Adapting to New Changes

Benefits of the online classifieds website, Backpage, for adult advertisers.
Image courtesy of The Nib

Depsite the continuous attempts to eradicate Backpage's adult section, time had proven once again that sex work will always be in demand. Furthermore, those working in the industry had shown that they will always find a way to market their business online.
 

Read More
Miami Backpage Girls Still Thriving
How the Internet Changed the Market For Sex
Sex Work is Work. And it Needs a Safe Workplace

I Am Jane Doe

 Poster for  I Am Jane Doe  film. Image courtesy of  Social Venture Partners.

Poster for I Am Jane Doe film. Image courtesy of Social Venture Partners.

“I Am Jane Doe” may be the rare social-issue documentary that has an effect on a social issue.
— John Anderson, The Washington Post

In May 2017, a documentary was released detailing the lives of underage girls that were trafficked and sold online on Backpage. 

a new bill is born

A new bill would also be introduced during a congressional screening of I Am Jane Doe. This new bill would eliminate Backpage (and all major internet platforms with third parties) and sex trafficking, from protection of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The name of the new bill: 

Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act aka FOSTA

Read More
A Movie About Online Sex-Trafficking Might Actually Get Laws Changed

Busty & Petite to 123-456-789

In November 2017, escorts advertising via Backpage began to notice a new, yet odd change within posting system. Only their phone numbers would become their new title for their ads. Along with their new titles, their new ads would only allow their contact info, a social media link and pictures. No more bios or expressive titles.

After shutting down their adult section, Backpage was under pressure after there were allegations of moderators editing the content of the ads. 

Read More
Sex Workers Expect to Struggle After Crackdown

SESTA Domino Effect

 Censoring of adult websites since SESTA & FOSTA. Image courtesy of  LifeSite.

Censoring of adult websites since SESTA & FOSTA. Image courtesy of LifeSite.

On March 21, 2018, SESTA, Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, passed and this would spark a domino effect on the online adult entertainment realm.

Any tool or service can be misused.
— Craiglist's statement on 'personals' shutdown

Craigslist shut down its 'personals' section. Reddit followed suit by shutting down its escorts, sugar daddies/babies forums. Cityvibe, popular adult advertising website in California and areas nationwide, shut down completely. VerifyHim, a safety database for online adult entertainers, shut down its discussion forum. 

Engadget also reported,

Microsoft and Google have moved to alter their terms of service to prohibit offensive or inappropriate content and language. Not even private discussions are safe, with Microsoft reportedly claiming the right to examine your content to investigate complaints. More troubling is the fact that according to Motherboard, Google is purging adult content from private Drive accounts. Performers who sell clips of explicit material to users have lost videos and received complaints from customers. Even videos with relatively anodyne names have been wiped or left in place but made unable to play, a troubling infringement of personal rights.

This was only the beginning.

Read More
Documenting Tech Actions
Trump Signs FOSTA Into Law

Craigslist Shuts Down Personals Section

Fatal Friday

Hey, I just tried to post up my ad on Backpage and I got this pop-up, do you know what’s going on?

April 6, 2018 began as another day for those in the Backpage empire; however, some quickly began to notice slight difficulties throughout the day. 

PANIC AT THE BLACKOUT

Finally, the empire had a complete blackout, and panic quickly ensued. Minutes later, a spotlight shined in the distance. It was shining from the tops of their ruler's palace, but the ruler was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was a group of assassins who had slyly invaded the empire, then dethroned & beheaded their ruler.

The assassins stood before the empire while holding the decapitated head of their ruler, and exclaimed, "All empires come to an end, and the Backpage one is no exception." Translation:

"Backpage has been seized."

The infamous pop-up on the now seized Backpage. Image courtesy of Fortune.

THE INVINCIBLE NEVER DIE

The empire couldn't believe their invincible warrior, who had the ability to withstand endless fights, taunts, and harsh criticisms throughout its time, was now dead.

Some were slightly happy to see their ruler gone because of scary encounters they had endured themselves in the empire. There were also some that could see the inconsistencies within the empire too, but they felt that the intruders didn't have to necessarily assassinate their ruler. 

human trafficking empire

The assassins stated their ruler was was the main facilitator for human trafficking.

Image courtesy of The Nib

The Backpage empire had multiple business including automotive, pet care; however, it was no secret that the main business of their empire was sex. Some exclaimed that if the main business of their empire wasn't illegal, then outsiders could better differentiate between who's forced into it than those who choose it. 

Backpage helped keep me safe during one of the scariest, most dangerous times of my entire life.
— Sarah, left survival sex work 2 years ago

By the accounts of those who actually lived in the empire, many stated they either didn't see any trafficking in their community, but those that did, immediately flagged those violators. The empire had a community-based type of policing, and violators were quickly removed after multiple flags from the community. They always flagged those that looked forced or underage. They also claimed that the empire itself kept themselves away from outside dangers. 

SILENCE

The empire began to voice their frustrations, but little did they know, they were also silenced. The assassins destroyed their freedom of speech, and as they read on to more of the evil things their ruler did, they simply couldn't hear the empire shouting back at them.  

All it will do is make sex workers less safe and vulnerable to violence and extortion. In effect, the U.S. Government is jeopardizing the lives of sex workers to boost their political careers.
— Maxine Doogan, President of the Erotic Service Providers Legal

The assassins then announced that the empire would stay blacked out with no chance of being seen again. The empire fired back shouting that shutting down their empire wasn't going to solve trafficking. It would make the situation more difficult since their empire was a widely used platform for outsiders to find trafficking victims. 

Soon, the spotlight was shut off, and the assassins proceeded to leave along with their newfound 'trophy'. 

INTO THE DARK

Actual people were now stuck in this blacked out realm fearing of no escape. Cries & shouts erupted from the empire, "They're just going to leave us in the dark now?!" Yet, unbeknownst to them, no one from the outside could hear them. The entire empire would remain blacked out, and the people, silenced.

Slowly overtime, many were able to find their ways out of the dark and start a new beginning elsewhere. They either easily created a new life for themselves, or they struggled to get by since certain empires were much more expensive to live in.

I need to start posting on Eros, but it’s $200 per ad as opposed to Backpage’s $7.
— Simone, New York sex worker
On Backpage you could take $10 and turn it into $1000.
— Jessi, Australian sex worker

Sadly, some were murdered during the process of escaping the dark since they no longer had the protection that the empire provided them with. Some contemplated suicide.

Unfortunately, others had no way out. Today, they are still concealed and silenced in the dark. Even those that were forced.


Note: SB Anna Bongiovanni's Sex Work is Work. And It Needs a Safe Workplace is about how the January 2017 shutdown of Backpage's adult section would devastate sex workers and their resources. However, this 2017 article, especially with details of the consequences from censoring BP's adult ads, definitely relates to the entire shutdown of Backpage that occurred on April 6, 2018.