Although Backpage was repeatedly cited in Congress as the reason the bills were necessary, neither was in effect when the FBI took action Friday—demonstrating to many that such laws are entirely superfluous, serving only to subjugate sex workers and endanger their lives. Deprived of safe spaces online, sex workers stand to lose the one channel enabling them to freely exchange information about potentially dangerous clients.


Many, experts fear, may be forced into a life on the streets, where women in the trade have been historically brutalized by men bent on siphoning their profits. In a statement, the Sex Workers Outreach Project called the seizure of Backpage “another example of state-sanctioned violence against the sex work community and their families.”

Added SWOP: “Attempting to deter sex workers from their jobs by removing advertising and screening platforms is akin to pushing sex work ‘underground’ and in the streets—where workers have less power in relation to their clients and where sex workers are at greater risk of arrest and police violence.”