A few years ago, there was a ton of political grandstanding against Craigslist
, because there was some prostitution on the site. As we noted at the time, it was pretty misguided. Craigslist cooperated with law enforcement and many law enforcement officials realized that Craigslist was an excellent tool
to help them find and arrest law breakers. We pointed out that going after Craigslist instead of the actual law breakers would mean that the activity would just move somewhere else. Indeed, Craigslist finally caved to tons of public pressure and blocked any ad that might be related to prostitution... and it did nothing to stop prostitution or human trafficking. It just moved elsewhere. The same crowd that wrongfully targeted Craigslist then shifted all of their attention to Backpage.com
. Even though the law has made it clear that Backpage, as a third party service provider is not liable
, the grandstanding continues against Backpage. The whole thing has gotten to be so much, that Backpage's owners, Village Voice Media, have sold off the newspapers
to separate them out from the site, and to avoid having the two properties connected.
The crusading against Backpage.com has become increasingly intense
and increasingly misguided lately. We get press releases all the time, full of emotional, but legally false, language, all attacking Backpage.com. No one seems to even want to recognize that attacking Backpage instead of those actually responsible
only makes it that much more difficult to track down the real criminals. Some law enforcement officials are not quite as misguided. As with Craigslist, we're seeing cases where Backpage.com is instrumental in putting together the case
-- in this case, against someone who had set up a brothel.
And yet, the attacks on Backpage.com continue
. The whole thing is stunning to me. Here's a tool that is a goldmine
for the police to collect evidence against those actually responsible for prostitution and human trafficking... and the response is to try to shut it down and drive those efforts further underground, rather than actually going after and arresting those responsible. It's shocking.