The shutting down of the scandalous ‘Backpage’
Backpage was a website that was initially launched in the year 2002 by a media group by the name New Media Group. When they started Backpage was registered as a classified advertising website, that allegedly and eventually ended up becoming one of the largest breeding grounds for the purchase of sex and activities of a similar kind in the United States.
Until a lawsuit in 2017, Backpage did have a section that catered to various kinds of sex work, which is strictly illegal in The United States with the exception of Nevada. The company proceeded to suspend said listings post the lawsuit but the damage in terms of sex trafficing and violation of minors had already been done.
However, the allegations tying Backpage to prostitution and sex trafficking had first surfaced years ago, 2011 to be precise, which is when critics and law enforcers commenced their accusations. For a while in early 2011, Backpage successfully argued legally that the free speech right would be compromised but early 2012 saw Fitzgibbon media backed by multiple other voices garner traction to put in place an anti- backpage situation.
This led to sparking more conversations, legal action, and the involvement of politicians.
Fast forward to 2015 when Backpage lost all financial support from banks (acting on the pressure put on them by law enforcement) which led to bitcoin being the only currency of transaction that could be used to navigate the site.
It is important to interject here that all those in support of Backpage stated that by providing the authorities with informations on suspicious happenings they could curb not all the sex trafficking but atleast a portion of it that would be harder to trace on any other corner of the internet. Their wager was that shutting down Backpage was inevitably going to just redirect this demographic to elsewhere.
October of 2016 saw the Attorney general of Texas, namely Ken Paxton and Kamala Harris announcing the decision of the Texas authorities raiding the Dallas headquarters of the company followed by an arrest of the CEO of the company Carl Ferror on accounts of grounds of a felony charge of pimping a minor.
According to the US Department of Justice’s indictment against Backpage there were 17 alleged victims who were trafficked by Backpage, a few of whom were minors.
In April of 2018, Backpage was officially seized by the United States Department of Justice, a report based on a study done on Backpage a year after it’s seizure came to uncover that Backpage owned a virtual monopoly on prostitution on the interne (was responsible for most of internet prostitution).
For the purpose of disclosure, it is necessary to mention that the Carl Ferrer (the CEO of Backpage) pleaded guilty for indulging in conspiracy to facilitate both prostitution as well as money laundering. He also agreed to testify against his co conspirators.
At the end of the day, Backpage also pleaded guilty for indulging in human trafficking.