The Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has declared war on the popular online classified ads site backpage.com. The Sheriff, based in Cook County of Chicago, takes umbrage with the adult listing section of the site hugely popular with escorts and sex workers. Dart as well as law enforcement and advocacy organisations have been in a pitched battle for years with backpage and sites of its likeness in an effort, they say, to protect women and girls from pimps and human trafficking. The most recent fold in their efforts was a letter penned by Dart to credit card companies urging them to cease processing backpages payments. Visa and mastercard have since complied with the Sheriff's request. In response backpage now accepts bitcoin and ultimately stopped charging users to post ads in the adult section. Backpage has also filed a Federal lawsuit against Dart claiming he damaged their business and violated their free speech. And still the battle continues, however there are some who think the sheriff is fighting the wrong fight.
Sex worker advocates argue the sites like backpage actually create a safer environment for sexworkers. For one the sites leave a digital trail for investigators if a crime should happen. In a hooker on the street scenario the transactions are always in cash, there is no hotel room or address, phone or email records, its basicly just a john in a car. Crimes against sexworkers that take place on the street are notoriously hard to investigate and rarely get reported. And without sites like craiglist thats exactly where sexworkers end up, on the streets. Eliminating a sexworkers advertising outlet does nothing to curb the industry or eliminate pimps or human traffickers, it simply puts sexworkers back on the street and makes their work more dangerous. Essentially this is technology being attacked for attacked for problems that manifest themselves in the world's oldest profession. The sheriff should be focused on prosecuting the pimps, human traffickers, and those who commit violence against sex workers; not the online classified site they choose to advertise on.