How the Government Saved Backpage.com

Some state attorney generals bucking for a promotion have been attacking a website, Craigslist, that allows people to advertise items and services they sell for free. Apparently, that’s okay unless the thing the seller wants to sell is their own body.

Craigslist has caved to some of the AGs demands, including shutting down their notorious erotic services category.

Clearly, that didn’t make prostitution go away, so what’s the fall-out? Have the AGs put an end to (or even slowed down the popularity of) prostitution, thus earning Puritan credibility and a a shot at a run for governor among puritan voters?

Here’s what I see:

1. People looking to sell themselves on Craigslist will shift to other categories, polluting non-sexual services classifieds categories with innuendo-laden ads.

2. Some sellers will shift to other sites that continue to provide a platform for erotic advertising, such as CityPages.com’s backpage.com site.

3. Non-Craigslist publishers will profit from the changes. Check out how flaccid Backpage.com’s traffic (the brand used by Village Voice Media for their largely sex-populated classifieds) was before Craigslist dropped their erotic services category:

Backpage.com Traffic Trend

Backpage.com’s traffic got a double shot of Viagra when Craigslist stopped providing a venue for free advertisements. This also provides some perspective on how much of backpage’s traffic is sex-industry driven compared to garage sale announcements. To drive home how sex-dependent Backpage.com is, here are the top-10 non-branded (terms that include company names) search terms that drove traffic to Backpage.com over the last month according to Compete.com:

1. shemale escorts in nj
2. craigslist
3. buffalo escorts
4. revolving tradelines
5. latinas massage in houston
6. raleigh gfe
7. dallas classifieds
8. seattle escorts
9. facebook of sex
10. www.escorts in mass

(What’s up with New Jersey?)

Backpage.com, unlike Craigslist, has been in the business of profiting from prostitution by charging for ads in their various adult classifieds categories for years. They’re also less discrete about their classifieds offerings, search engine optimizing their way to the #1 position on Google for many city-specific escort searches:

Minneapolis Escorts - Backpage Optimization

Looking for escorts? Backpage.com profits from being a classifieds gateway while Craigslist provided the same service for free. Why state attorney generals decided that Craigslist is the enemy isn’t entirely clear.

Strangely, the actions taken by many of our country’s state attorney generals may lead to Craigslist profiting from prostitution as well. After shutting down their erotic services category, they opened up a new adult category where they charge for ads. Since November, they’ve charged advertisers for ads placed in their erotic services category but gave the money to charities designed to help people get out of the industry. However, as I understand it, that doesn’t apply to the newly formed category.

If the AGs goal was to actually help people working in the sex industry, they could have simply called or emailed the people advertising on Craigslist. But that would involve social work, which probably isn’t a priority of the attorney general’s office, where they’re more interested in looking for criminal angles rather than social problems.

It seems like the state AGs have whacked a mole on this one.




14 thoughts on “How the Government Saved Backpage.com”

  1. That’s backpage for you and now they take your money once your ad has been posted by removing the ad once they approved it. Craigslist also does the same thing. What a Ripp OFF!

  2. @JennDDs, I get the impression that Craigslist’s ad removals are based on a combination of spam filtering, and community flagging. They don’t profit from the ads posted to the adult section (all of that money goes to charity) so I don’t thing there is a scam going on here. However, I have seen stories suggesting that competitive advertisers have been known to flag each others ads to make their competition disappear. That may apply to both sites.

  3. The sex industry is a SCAM in itself and shouldn’t exist! The bleeping five letter a word shouldn’t be used to talk about pornography even before you’re 21. 18-year-olds like to sneak in and pretend they’re 21 when in reality they’re not. Capisce?

    It should just be called obscenity. No sugarcoating involved. Now that’s authentic!

  4. The same ag’s and politicians blowing hot air at these websites probably use them when the cameras are off. During the 2004 RNC in New York, prosititutes made record amounts of money off of those tight-asses.

  5. craigslist, never stopped having sex ads, the definition of no sex ads on craigs is now prostitutes have to pay $10.00 an ad, making craig a pimp, they stole this type of thinking from our elected officials, ‘health care for everyone” translation ? you are now forced to buy heath insurance, or risk fines and jail.
    gotta love it, lol

  6. @Garey, for Craig to be a pimp, wouldn’t he need to profit from the ads? That’s not the case, since the money collected by Craigslist goes to support organizations that help get people out of the business. A pimp wouldn’t do that.

    This doesn’t seem to be related to the health care debate to me.

  7. backpage.com also supports the men that get upset when they DONT get sexual favors by allowing them to post things against women that dont provide sex in exchange for money when requested!!!!!
    Instead of deleting ads from pissed off men that didnt get their way with women, backpage is HEAVILY IN SUPPORT OF AND PRO- PROSTITUTION !!!

    just go to backpage.com and see the posts that MEN put up in the bodyrubs section after NOT receiving sex for money !!!

  8. Personally I think that we should let grown folks do what they want ti do. I have been around the business for a while and contrary to what people think, these girls are not forced into the biz, and the don’t want to be rescued.

    Government needs to focus on real issues and leave consenting adults alone. Enough said.

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