One of the surprising things is how uptight people on both sides of the political spectrum can become about the buying and selling of sex. Right or Left, the government crusade to get those bastards at Backpage.com lasted through two Presidential administrations, Obama and Trump.
Anyone who kept their ear to the ground about how Backpage actually worked with law enforcement understood that they were acting in their own best interest to avoid being shut down. Cooperation with law enforcement is traditionally one of the way that businesses who deal on the “seedier” side of industries gains a measure of protection from being shut down by the local city council as a “nuisance business” that “attracts crime!”
Unfortunately, after Craigslist was pressured into completely removing its personals section due to government pressure, Backpage chose to continue to offer that service. The curious case of the Department of Justice continually searching for a crime to investigate and then prosecute has much more to do with the appearance of being hard on crime than actually being hard on crime. Anyone who says the slight dip in sex trafficking prosecutions after the seizure of Backpage is an idiot that doesn’t understand that prosecutions result from successful investigations, and Backpage was a big supplier of information for investigations. Was being the operative word. Now all of the content has moved to competing sites, which popped up like mushrooms after the rain. The workload on law enforcement agencies has increased by an order of magnitude.
But maybe, just maybe, it was never really about Backpage being “bad guys.” Maybe it was about a convenient scapegoat other than “Social Justice” or “Global Warming” that would make the “Moral Left” seem like a viable alternative to the stuffed shirts (and closet homosexuals) of the Moral Right. When a local government uses a nuisance ordinance to shut down a locally owned motel, or liquor store, or pawn shop, generally the local government can find a way to profit off that seizure. This time the only profit is in sound bites given by politicians being “serious” about “sex trafficking.”
Now prostitution has moved to Tinder or Grindr (for those of the homosexual orientation) and other smartphone apps that allow people to hook up (and maybe or maybe not exchange money). Various backpage substitutes like “bedpage” or “iBackpage” have all popped up. In short, the Government showed the tech world that there is absolutely NO BENEFIT to voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement.
To put things in perspective, the Federal Government found 17 people willing to press charges against Backpage over the more than decade that Backpage was in operation. Backpage was the second most trafficked internet site on the world wide web for classified after Craigslist. To use Craiglist as an example, there are 80 million unique posts per month. If we say that Backpage was only 12.5% as popular as Craigslist, that means 10 million unique posts per month. Over the course of ten years that is 360 Million unique posts. 17 people willing to press charges against Backpage out of 360 Million posts is a 0.00000000472% chance of encountering “sex trafficking” on Backpage. That is literally as likely as winning the lottery jackpot.
To illustrate how insidious that is, remember all the sex abuse and grooming scandals that Congress has with the pages. Remember the sex scandals in the military from Aberdeen to Tail Hook. If we held the Government to the same standard that the Government is trying to hold Backpage, the Government would go out of business. Perfection is unattainable.