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Master Card pulled out the following day, with a statement that said “Master Card has rules that prohibit our cards from being used for illegal or brand-damaging activities.” Visa followed suit a day later, with a statement saying “Visa’s rules prohibit our network from being used for illegal activity.” In fact, their actions went far beyond the reach of law.
Backpage is used in over 80 countries; because credit card companies’ reach is global, their cutting off service to the site affects sex workers worldwide, including those whose work is legal in their jurisdictions.
Preventing these workers from being able to advertise makes it more likely for them to be driven onto the streets, into the hands of pimps or managers, or simply into more desperate poverty.
Politicians may not see this as an issue, but all of us should.
He and his department, working closely with anti-sex work organizations such as Demand Abolition, have spearheaded initiatives such as the National Day of Johns Arrests, making hundreds of prostitution-related arrests over a period of years.
In 2009, Dart sued Craigslist in an effort to have that site remove its adult ads.
Nor do these policies actually aid survivors of trafficking in the sex industry.
Multiple lawsuits against Backpage were also dismissed on constitutional grounds.This week, after an informal request from a law enforcement officer, Visa and Master Card announced that they would no longer let their cards be used to process payments to Backpage.com, the most widely used site for adult advertising in the United States.American Express had already pulled out earlier in the year.But efforts to combat sex work under the guise of trafficking are often counterproductive to their stated purpose.
What is new, and alarming, is the precedent this sets.One cop can shut down a site’s ability to do business simply because it engages in speech he doesn’t like, even if that speech is legally protected. What constitutes “brand-damaging” is a matter of opinion.Visa and Master Card are fine with doing business with the KKK, for example. Sex workers shouldn’t be the only ones who are concerned about this, even if few people seem to be concerned about sex workers.It’s not a coincidence that Backpage got targeted first, but it would be a mistake for more privileged workers to assume that they aren’t up next.