Closed even before the new law came into effect

This is a bit of real foolishness by those shouting about prostitution and sex trafficking in the US. For they’re celebrating how – the home of most of the paid sex ads out there – has been closed down by the Feds. And doing so as they talk about how the changes to the Communications Decency Act are so necessary in the fight against sex trafficking etc.

Yet has been closed down without the use of the changes in the CDA…..meaning that the changes aren’t necessary to close down Backpage, are they?

U.S. law enforcement agencies have seized the sex marketplace website as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a posting on the Backpage website on Friday.

Groups and political leaders working to end forced prostitution and child exploitation celebrated the shutdown of Backpage, a massive ad marketplace that is primarily used to sell sex.

It’s deeply uncertain, to say the least, that there is any connection whatsoever between the website and forced prostitution or child exploitation. The legitimate, meaning illegal still but above ground and visible, sex industry never really does have much to do with either of those two. On the entirely sensible and simple grounds that near no punters are interested in either. Indeed, the British finding is that on the very rare occasions such things are happening it’s almost inevitably a miffed punter that dobs the perpetrators in. There being more than a little difference between renting the time of a strapping and willing lass for some healthy exercise and raping a shrieking 14 year old, one known and understood by johns.

But then paid sex being one of those subjects politics never quite does manage to get right. Still I do think a mistake has been made here. Because the changes to the CDA aren’t even in effect yet:

Backpage successfully used the Communications Decency Act to defend itself against two civil suits and beat back statutes targeting its operations that were passed in three states.

Thus the supposed need for the changes to the CDA of course. In order to be able to get Backpage.

In March, Congress passed a bill amending the Communications Decency Act, essentially stripping away that defense. The measure, which is awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump, makes it a crime for someone to use a website “with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person…” The sponsors of the bill made no secret that its target was Backpage,

The law’s not in effect yet – no, it ain’t until the President signs it and no, laws that might get signed do not then make things taking place before they are signed illegal – and yet still Backpage was got. Therefore the new law isn’t needed to get Backpage, is it? Which is the mistake that has been made. From the point of view of the pushers of these changes the takedown would have been better in a few week’s time, obviously, once the law is in effect. Not that it’s going to change much, prodnoses will prodnose, but it has made the vacuity of their arguments even more obvious. We just don’t need a law to take them down on the evidence of their being taken down before the new law comes into effect.

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Shut yo’ mouth! We is reformin’!


“It’s deeply uncertain, to say the least, that there is any connection whatsoever between the website and forced prostitution or child exploitation.” This is what I call the “Group-A-Group-B trick”. There’s an innocent and inoffensive Group A you want to persecute, but there’s no public support for doing so. So you locate a Group B who are widely accepted to be wicked, that the public will support treating harshly, and that overlaps with Group A. Then you play up the connection, and advocate for regulating Group A to deal with the problem of Group B, even when Group B is… Read more »


If individual legislators made an identity-shell-game to argue for amending the Act (for example, “all deviants are human traffickers”), that is the least of our worries. The amendments take aim against misbehavior and fire at an entire market, as the government acts against drug abuse by trying to shut down the drug market, “protects children” by chipping away at gun rights in general, and acts against exploitation of underage actors by requiring any resold copy of a video to cite a certificate proving a negative. The amendment to the Act cracks down on a marketplace of ideas, and the increased… Read more »


Looks like another one of those games Yank prosecutors like to play, where they identity a target and then decide what they’re going down for, usually loading up as many charges as lawyerly possible to either force them into a plea bargain or convince a jury they must be guilty of something.

I doubt the guys running that site were guilty of human trafficking. Also, the internet has greatly reduced the number of prossies plying their trade on street corners, which most people who aren’t serial killers would take to be a win-win.

Tim Newman
Tim Newman

I have noticed recently, having engaged such people on Twitter, that those who claim to have the interests of sex workers at heart know almost nothing about them, and I suspect have met almost none. Their view of the industry is like teenage boys talking about sex, i.e. lots of imagination and very little actual experience.