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Will Getting Rid of Ads for Escorts Help Stop Child Sex Trafficking?

Is it possible to rid the online classified site Backpage of child trafficking without shuttering its adult section?

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Ultimately, most critics will accept nothing less than the site shutting down its adult section — but this will likely direct business elsewhere (just as Craigslist’s shuttering of its adult section drove traffic to Backpage), and potentially to less cooperative businesses.

That’s not to mention that many sex worker activists argue that closing Backpage’s adult section will make it harder, and more dangerous, for those who are willingly in the industry to ply their trade. “What it comes down to is what keeps the most people the most safe, and what actually makes sense for sex workers,” says Sarah Patterson, a community organizer for the Sex Worker’s Outreach Project’s New Work City chapter. She argues that the ultimate answer is decriminalizing sex work while also protecting those who are being coerced into the business; and in this particular case, she says it’s allowing adults to sell sexual services on Backpage while also going after those selling non-consensual services. “For a lot of people that’s really hard to imagine,” she says, explaining that sex work is generally seen only in black and white terms. “Unfortunately for me, that is the solution.”

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