First, federal authorities seized the classified advertising website Backpage.com last week. Then, a 93-count indictment was unsealed, charging several of its top officials with facilitating prostitution and revealing details about victims including minors as young as 14.
Now, President Trump has signed new anti-sex-trafficking legislation into law on Wednesday. The new law, which passed Congress with near unanimous bipartisan support, will give prosecutors stronger tools to go after similar sites in the future and suspend liability protections for internet companies for the content on their sites.
Not everyone is happy about this…
After Backpage was seized on Friday, the Women’s March group said on Twitter that the result was “an absolute crisis” for sex workers seeking safe communication with clients, drawing criticism.
“Women’s March stands in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement,” a spokeswoman for the organization explained on Tuesday. “We believe a world is possible in which no one is trafficked or enslaved, and in which sex workers are not criminalized and ostracized by the state and our movements.”
“Shutting down websites like Craigslist and Backpage pushes sex workers and sex trafficking victims into street-based sex work where they’re at greater risk of violence,” said Ms. Raven, who said she had survived homelessness and engaged in sex to survive as a teenager.
My question, though, is what practical difference do these shutdowns make if the Internet is global? There are plenty of countries in which prostitution is legal (see “Where New York Times readers don’t want to follow Europe: Legalized prostitution”) and where Internet is both legal and available. If Americans want to meet virtually in an online forum, why would they need to do that in a U.S.-based site?
Will the U.S. need a Great Firewall and an outlawing of VPNs to enforce this new law? Or can the Federales somehow go and shut down web servers in foreign countries just as easily as they can in the U.S.?