by Amna El Tawil
Classified ad website BackPage.com, has shut down its adult section due to pressure from the US government. This action comes about seven years after the Craigslist closed its adult section as well, in 2010. Then, the Washington Post wrote: “The move is the first of its kind for a company that has become not only a place to buy used furniture and find apartments, but also a symbol of a free-speech, no-limit Internet. Craigslist yielded to the complaints of advocacy groups who say the firm’s Web sites are being widely used in the global sex trade of women and children.”
After the adult section was closed on Craigslist, the BackPage became a popular advertising platform for escorts and other adult services that are considered illegal. If you were to go to the website and decided to look for some adult services, you’d see the message displayed below.
(Photo credit: Screenshot/BackPage.com)
The LA Times reports: “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 site has long positioned itself as a champion of online speech freedoms and has relied on the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a federal statute that immunizes website operators from the content of users’ ads.”
The article was flooded with readers’ comments and most of them were puzzled as to why the government would focus on websites and adult sex with a substantial amount of crime and insecurity troubles in the country.
Founders of the website, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, released a statement saying: “Today, the censors have prevailed. We get it! 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.”
The official Twitter profile of the BackPage.com published a statement released by the DKT Liberty Project which said: “The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has been engaged in an unconstitutional and blatant attempt to crush Backpage.com, a website that carries classified ads, by pretending to seek information it doesn’t need when it is actually using the power of the federal government to be prosecutor, judge, and jury – all rolled into one. The DKT Liberty Project objects to the PSI’s staging what amount to “show trials” akin to those we expect to see in countries like China and Russia. Such tactics by this Subcommittee were pioneered during the Cold War by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and it is a sad day to see their return…As citizens or parents, the senators can denounce Backpage all they want, but government coercion is unconstitutional.”
— backpage.com (@backpagecom) January 10, 2017