Last Friday the U.S. Justice Department disabled Backpage.com. This week a grand jury in Phoenix indicted seven individuals associated with Backpage with alleged money laundering and facilitating prostitution. While this investigation of Backpage is still in its early stages, the controversy over the classified website is nothing new.
Backpage started as the literal back page of the New Times, with classified ads in 2004. According to news articles, after Craigslist ended their adult ad section in response to public pressure in 2010, Backpage’s adult and child sex ads, and therefore its profit margins, began to soar. Backpage came under scrutiny in 2011 for allegations that their adult services subsection was used for prostitution and human trafficking, particularly trafficking of minors. By 2014, Backpage had a profitability margin of 82 percent, compared with a 9.3 percent average for similar online service companies. Ninety-three percent of its revenues were generated from its sex ads.
I will continue to monitor this issue and make sure sex trafficking victims can recover from their injuries caused by Backpage’s role in advertising them on its despicable website.