Classified ad site Backpage.com has closed its adult section in the United States, citing “unconstitutional government censorship” as the cause. Since Craigslist closed its adult section in 2010, Backpage has become a popular advertising platform for escorts and illegal adult services.
The LA Times reports that Backpage shuttered the section following the release of a blistering report from the US Senate. The document accused the site of revising ads that suggested criminal activity in order to keep them online. The report claims Backpage went so far as to delete information from ads indicative of sex trafficking and prostitution, especially of children — but not remove the posts entirely.
The adult section now reroutes to the claim of censorship, pointing to a statement that alleges the government pressured “credit card companies to cease doing business with Backpage.”
The closure marks the end of a long and turbulent path for Backpage’s adult section. The site’s CEO and co-founders were cleared of criminal charges related to pimping, pimping a minor, and accusations of sex trafficking just shy of a month ago. In the statement posted on its site, Backpage claims the government aims to “force Backpage to follow in the footsteps of Craigslist and abandon its Adult advertising section.”
“This will not end the fight for online freedom of speech,” the site reads. “Backpage.com will continue to pursue its efforts in court to vindicate its First Amendment rights and those of other online platforms for third party expression.”
US Senators Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill, in a statement via Reuters, said the site was more complicit in sex trafficking than previously thought. “Backpage’s response wasn’t to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site,” they said. “That’s not ‘censorship’ — it’s validation of our findings.” The hearing for the report is today.