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Backpage is used in over 80 countries; because credit card companies’ reach is global, their cutting off service to the site affects sex workers worldwide, including those whose work is legal in their jurisdictions.
And what the site itself was doing was legally protected, as courts had found time and time again. Anti-sex work advocates were thrilled with the response, hailing the circumvention of due process as a “progressive” way of going after the site since everything else they had tried had failed to stand up to scrutiny.
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Visa and Master Card are fine with doing business with the KKK, for example. Sex workers shouldn’t be the only ones who are concerned about this, even if few people seem to be concerned about sex workers.
Given recent events, it seems plausible that many cops may not have a problem with that, but it’s easy to imagine other kinds of speech they might not like. Innocent children, however fictional, are easier to drum up sympathy for than poor people finding ways to survive in a world that wants us to quietly die.
One cop can shut down a site’s ability to do business simply because it engages in speech he doesn’t like, even if that speech is legally protected. What constitutes “brand-damaging” is a matter of opinion.
Political or community groups that might be critical of them? In the end, the most affected by this will be the most marginalized among us.
Many of the higher echelons of sex workers in the US don’t advertise on Backpage at all, and those who do are more likely to have the resources to learn how to use Bitcoin, pay high fees for prepaid cards, or move on to more expensive, less accessible sites.
In 2009, Dart sued Craigslist in an effort to have that site remove its adult ads.
Although the suit was unsuccessful, the site ultimately submitted to the pressure, voluntarily shutting down its erotic services section in 2010.