What the hell is going on with Backpage? Part II

by Caty Simon on July 21, 2015 · 36 comments

in Money, Prostitution, Trafficking

(Screenshot of Backpage's July 10th email to users)

(Screenshot of Backpage’s July 10th e-mail to users)

Update: Backpage filed a federal suit today against Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for violating its free speech and equal protection rights after the Sheriff successfully pressured credit card companies to break with the company this month. In the suit, Backpage requests a preliminary injury, so that credit card processing will be restored to the site immediately; compensation for loss of revenue from credit card transactions this month; and punitive damages.

Free posting

Earlier this month, Backpage responded to American Express, Mastercard, and Visa’s disallowal of charges for adult services ads by offering free posting in that section. In an e-mail to users on July 10th, Backpage informed posters that they can move their ads to the top of the listings for free every 24 hours. Each additional posting within that 24 hours will cost a dollar. A good portion of the mainstream media is characterizing this move as reactionary. An example: “Backpage.com thumbs nose at sheriff [Tom Dart, the Illinois Cook County anti-trafficking zealot who wrote a letter to Mastercard and Visa this month prompting their actions],” as the USA Today headline put it, but many sex workers believe this is the least Backpage can do for them during this difficult time in return for earning $22 million dollars of revenue annually from our escort ads.

However, Katherine Koster of the Sex Worker Outreach Project noted that some sex workers are still having trouble with the new system. For one thing, it seems the free posting is only a privilege granted to those who’d posted a paid ad recently, before the Visa and Mastercard fiasco began. “Other people have shared issues around…not being able to post at all,” Koster told Tits and Sass via a Facebook message.

“Every single day, they [Backpage] keep changing shit, other shit randomly doesn’t work, and it is getting incredibly frustrating to use,” Australian escort Sarah summed up on her tumblr.

Backpage itself specified in its e-mail to users that:

Free and paid ads initially post into the same section and sort by date. After a grace period, free ads change position to the Additional Ads section below the paid ads.

Many adult services posters have found that their free ads become inaccessible to clients quickly after being shunted into the Additional Ads section, far from the top of the ad queue where postings garner the most notice. On July 9th, Sarah wrote that she’d “been having problems all day with some of my Backpage free ads disappearing into the ether, showing as live but not being visible in the category listings.”

USA Today also reported that Benjamin Breit, Dart’s spokesperson, scoffed at the free ad system, calling it unsustainable, and commenting that it was “a predictable act of desperation” from a business with a failing model. Peter Zollman, the founding principal of Advanced Media Interactive Group, agreed that free posting can’t last forever, but he also added that “[i]n the meantime, maintaining an audience, and showing an ability to get around the sheriff’s edict, is important to them [Backpage].”

Dart is sheriff of the second largest county in the United States. He is also a prominent proponent of anti-sex worker policy. He filed a federal lawsuit against Craigslist’s Erotic Services section in 2009 which was later dismissed, but which added to the pressure that led Craigslist to ultimately take down the ad section a year later. But his command of global influence in the credit card companies’ decision this month still seems incredible.

Users can buy credits for posting via Bitcoin, or checks, money orders, or cash sent by mail to a post office box in Dallas. Sheriff Dart wrote to chief postal inspector Guy Cottrell on July 8th asking him to try to find a way to stop people from using the Postal Service to facilitate “sex trafficking” via Backpage, but it is not illegal to send payment for advertisement over the U.S. mail. There are other online workarounds through which one can still buy posting credits through Visa, Mastercard, and American Express cards, but we hesitate to list them publicly for fear of law enforcement taking these options away from sex workers once they are generally known.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. (Photo via wikimedia)

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. (Photo via wikimedia)

In the wake of Visa and Mastercard’s decision, anti-Backpage hysteria ramped up in Massachusetts and Rhode Island:

On July 7th, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey echoed Sheriff Dart’s bellicose anti-trafficking posturing by making a public statement calling for Backpage to take down its adult services ad section.

This announcement came on the heels of 34-year-old escort and New York native Sanisha Johnson’s murder at the Extended Stay America hotel in Burlington, MA on July 2nd. Allegedly, 24-year-old Epshod Jeune and 21-year-old Derrel Fisher contacted Johnson through Backpage, and within a few minutes of their meeting shortly after midnight, they robbed her and shot her point blank through the chest. Authorities said they’d just robbed another escort in Woburn’s Red Roof Inn 20 minutes away. Both men were arraigned on July 6th for murder charges, both pleading not guilty.

Healey’s statement did not include an explanation of how removing Backpage as an option for independent sex workers to advertise, thus creating a larger niche for third party exploitation, would protect women like Johnson from violence. Predictably, though, the attorney general’s anti-sex worker stance drew applause from prohibitionist Massachusetts organization Demand Abolition. “Websites like this make an illegal industry more invisible,” stated Ziba Crammer, the organization’s executive director, though presumably Backpage and the transactional history it accumulates through credit card and mailed payments can only make the sex trade more transparent.

On February 15th, Healey filed an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. District Court in Boston to allow a lawsuit brought by three underage trafficking survivors against Backpage to proceed. She argued that websites like Backpage should not be immune to liability under the federal Communications Decency Act, the Massachusetts Anti-Trafficking Act, and Chapter 93A of Massachusetts law against unfair and deceptive business practices, because, according to the plaintiffs’ suit, Backpage does more than allow posts on their site, but also intentionally promotes sex trafficking and knowingly allows the trafficking of minors. The suit, brought by three Jane Does, was dismissed in May, but the plaintiffs are appealing.

In Providence, Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, also jumped on the anti-Backpage bandwagon. On July 9th, he urged Congress to shut down Backpage’s adult ad section by amending a portion of the Communications Decency Act which protects online service providers from legal action based on postings by third parties. (The National Association of Attorneys General originally requested this amendment to the CDA in July 2013.)

Kilmartin’s office indicted 28-year-old Daniel Tejeda for first degree murder earlier that week, charging him with strangling a 24-year old single mother of three, Ashley Masi, whom he’d met on Backpage. (Masi’s own mother, Rhonda Bleeker, believes her daughter arranged to meet Tejeda on Backpage for a ride or to borrow a car, not for sex, but she did state that “whether she was on there as an escort, or wasn’t, she didn’t deserve to die.”) On July 13th, another man, James Adams, was found guilty in Providence Superior Court on a number of charges, including attacking one Backpage adult services poster, Jessica Dyer, as well as killing another, Mary Grier, in 2012.

Neither Healey nor Kilmartin made any statements promoting decriminalization, which would protect sex workers from such violence by allowing them to operate openly.


Eros hopes your answer is "yes." (Screenshot from Eros.com July online newsletter post)

Eros hopes your answer is “yes.” (Screenshot from Eros.com July online newsletter post)

Escorts found a nasty surprise awaited them if they decided to post on Eros instead of Backpage: Bee, an American escort, wrote in a Tumblr message to Tits and Sass:

I might move to Eros if I get desperate enough. The problem with Eros is that they now require an ID scan for every new ad, which I find to be a huge violation of privacy and discretion. This is why I have always preferred [Backpage]; I don’t have to give them any personal info so I feel safe.

In a Tumblr post on the topic, sex worker sexapro20mg elaborated:

This is a problem for workers who are undocumented, for workers advertising or living as a different gender than the one on the ID, and for those of us who don’t feel comfortable with handing over our personal info: face photo, driver’s license/ID number, and address where our families live. Some of us have stalkers or abusive exes, and if their system got hacked (not at all impossible) it’s literally a matter of life or death if our info is leaked. I’m really disappointed because EROS has always been my backup if backpage were to go under.

Eros expanded on this new policy in a post on their July online newsletter, attempting to appease anti-trafficking efforts while also displaying implicit snobbery towards other escort ad sites:

…As the legal climate around the industry continues to ramp-up the efforts to stop human trafficking and underage advertising, many sites are now starting to follow the example set by Eros to require ID submissions for their younger advertisers.

Eros applauds these efforts, and only wishes that these other sites realized the obvious importance of requiring ID’s for young entertainers before the political or legal pressure forced it upon them. Long before there were any human trafficking task forces or nationwide efforts to police adult advertising websites, Eros had strict policies in place to verify the age of our adult entertainers. Since the day our doors opened for business in 1997, we have recognized the importance of providing a safe and secure advertising platform for our entertainers, and have strongly believed that our high standards have helped create an online community that both advertisers and viewers can be proud to be a part of.

By submitting your ID to Eros, you are helping continue this tradition of safety and security.

What Eros failed to mention in this post is that the ID scan policy for all new posts was only introduced in November 2014, after the FBI closed Redbook in June that year. Eros used to only require such verification for those who wanted to market themselves as young, in the 18-22 year old range; those who wanted the dubious status of being a “verified” provider; or people who didn’t want to include face pics in their ads. Even after the company regulation requiring IDs was instituted, many escorts found that the site only selectively enforced it until recently. This new protocol is obviously a calculated appeal to law enforcement, asking them to think of the site as somehow trafficking safe; the kinder, gentler, classier alternative to low-end advertising venues.

“Looks like Eros is trying to preemptively brand itself as a Safe Responsible Adult Ad Site, so it’ll be harder to tar and feather them and run them out of town the way their competitors, Redbook and Backpage, were,” wanderingwhore remarked in her Tumblr. “And this move in particular is playing respectability politics like a gosh-darned fiddle, which bodes well for, uh, my continued ability to support myself in the only country where I’m a citizen. The field of options is thinning. If, hypothetically, the Eros goes down like so many others have before… what’s left?”


Coincafe's disingenuous "special message" to sex workers. All their love, indeed. (Screenshot from Coincafe)

Coincafe’s disingenuous “special message” to sex workers. Much love, indeed. (Screenshot from Coincafe)

One option left to escorts and other ad posting sex workers is to buy credits on Backpage via Bitcoin. As soon as the Mastercard and Visa announcements were made, escorts started posting how-to-guides to teach each other the use of the cryptocurrency, and private Skype tutorials within the sex worker community are still being scheduled as of this writing. But as the guides pointed out, Bitcoin as currency can be troublesome for sex workers in a number of ways.

In order to use Bitcoin, you need to have a “wallet” for the currency and two sets of private key codes to access it. You can keep these keys on a drive. But if your computer’s hard drive crashes or your phone’s memory card is destroyed, you may lose these keys, and with them, access to your Bitcoin value. The other choice is to have a cloud company host your wallet on their network, finding a secure space online to store your keys.  But care is needed with this option as well, as hackers have been known to tap into online hosting accounts trying to steal both sets of people’s keys. And if you do this, the cloud company ultimately controls your wallet, and you must trust that they won’t steal your Bitcoins or freeze your account if you violate some user condition.  Also, as one guide explains, “If a government tells the cloud provider to freeze your account or to give your Bitcoins to the government instead of to you, your Bitcoins are lost.”

And as Backpage users discovered, Bitcoin hosting wallet services can be even more aggressively whorephobic than we know Paypal, Greendot, and other financial services to be. For example, Coincafe posted a “special message” to Backpage users warning them that if they attempted to use their wallets to pay for adult services ads in Bitcoin, they would halt the transaction, close their wallets, and “collect and submit [their] personally identifiable information to state and federal authorities.” The message also implied that sex workers were sending Coincafe “scary” “threatening messages.” The wallet hosting service averred in the message that “[t]his is nothing personal, or anything against sex workers. It’s just that we’re regulated under the same rules as all of the other financial institutions in this country.” But according to Cryptocoin News, this policy seems to be the company’s independent decision, not their response to any government regulations or law enforcement scrutiny. Coinbase and other hosted services have made no public comments on Backpage at this time, but many of these companies are known to work with the U.S. government, so sex workers should be wary. After the Silk Road convictions, Bitcoin wallet services seem to be spooked, attempting to rewrite Bitcoin’s long history of use in black market transactions.

The ending to Coincafe's message to sex workers. (Screenshot from Coincafe)

The rest of Coincafe’s message to sex workers. (Screenshot from Coincafe)

Kate Zen, one of the presenters in a sex worker community Bitcoin training, warned us over e-mail about another wallet hosting service:

There are also many companies with extremely predatory practices, aggressively pursuing sex workers after the BP incident to not only use their exchange but also to store our money on their wallets. These wallets are not proven to be safe or trusted, and it is not recommended that any sex workers use these wallets. There are way too many scams by bitcoin companies, and we have reason to suspect that Paxful, which has been aggressively pursuing sex workers, may be one of them. DO NOT TRUST PAXFUL.

Zen added that a trustworthy wallet hosting service will record only one set of your keys. But scam hosting websites will deceptively save both sets of your keys when you use their wallet, enabling them to access your Bitcoin value and steal your money.

A research paper by Southern Methodist University computer scientists Marie Vasek and Tyler Moore, presented at the Financial Cryptography and Data Security Conference in Puerto Rico in January, estimated that swindlers took at least $11 million in Bitcoins from 13,000 victims in 192 different types of scams since 2011. But the paper’s authors believe that, in fact, the real amount of funds cheated out of Bitcoin users over this period must have been higher, as there were many fraudulent schemes operating during that time which they couldn’t verify. Sex workers must be careful not to be deceived in this perilous financial environment.

Finally, all Bitcoin transactions are recorded on what is called a blockchain every night, visible to the entire Bitcoin network. Thus, in order to maintain anonymity, it is important for sex workers to use as many different Bitcoin addresses for their transactions as possible so no one Bitcoin address can ever be associated with their offline identities.

Emy Fem, a Berlin worker, told us about her difficulties working in the U.S. for two weeks via Facebook message, “I didn’t manadge [sic] this bitcoin shit cause it was [too] complicated for me and my english [skills] are not proper enough to understand…maybe this is the situation of many old [sex workers] who are not so deep in the computer tech and for migrant sexworkers without english speaking support.” Indeed, most Bitcoin resources are in English or other European languages. And Bitcoin does require a level of tech-savviness that some middle aged and elderly sex workers may find difficult to achieve, as opposed to the few click throughs that were necessary to post on Backpage before the credit company bans.

Some sex workers may be tempted to go after the nerd demographic by accepting Bitcoin as payment for their services as well, not simply using it as a means to pay for Backpage ads. One anonymous North American sex worker e-mailed to share her experience with taking Bitcoins for sessions:

I received the equivalent of $300 from a client one morning, which became $265 in my wallet at the end of the day due to some blip in the price, which was upsetting to me. Bitcoin ATMs are also hard to access – there are only a few in every city, and there are high transaction costs involved, higher than a normal ATM. So it can be a hassle to convert your bitcoin to cash for, say, paying your rent.

Kate Zen stated,

[I]if the U.S. government and banking system decided suddenly to change their attitude and policies towards Bitcoin, they could potentially create laws that would greatly undermine the value of Bitcoin, by simply scaring people away from it, which would cause the value to drop as people sell their Bitcoin. There is no safety net to put a stop to inflation if that should happen…bitcoin may not be a safe long-term investment.

And then there’s the problem of dealing with a population rife with misogynist geeks as clients. On a Bitcoin subreddit this week, sex worker Tegan Lin posted an arch, hilarious rejoinder to the wave of condescending mansplaining of the currency to sex workers by Milton Friedman wannabe Bitcoin champions on the site. She later deleted the post, but not before it had been copy pasted and gleefully passed around by appreciative fellow sex workers:

I’d say the number one factor against Bitcoin is – attracting a bunch of damn libertarians as your regulars.

I mean, seriously, what can be less sexy than a guy who has his monocle on backwards telling you:

“The philosophical Chicago School of Economics is most correct.” hahaha go bust a monocle, libertarian.

…My feeling is that a lot of Bitcoin enthusiasts (mostly lonely white dudes) are getting their panties into knots about the prospect of increasing the value of their magic bean reserves with real, hard-earned sex worker money. They tend to have little respect for the intelligence of sex workers, and see sex workers (and women, in general) as stupid creatures, easy prey. That’s a dangerous set of starting conditions for a speculation bubble.

However, Lin added, using Bitcoin sparingly to pay for Backpage or in sideline internet sex work transactions can help you understand the tech guy niche market, if you’re interested in branding yourself to appeal to them:

Tech guys are mostly pretty gentle dudes, stereotypically lonelier/more awkward than your average joe, and thus better customers – requiring more gender-affirming validation, while less willing to leave their keyboards to find said validation…

…Also, some libertarians are known to be rather generous on the internet to chicks who validate their political agenda. But treat this validation the same way as you would treat any backhanded compliment from your clients – 1) Smile graciously and accept the cash – that is the only compliment worth banking on; 2) Act smart enough to flatter their self-importance with validating chatter in their limited subject areas of interest, but don’t act too smart, in case you deflate their egos or destroy their fragile worldview, which so often involves getting pleasure out of thinking they are smarter/better than you; 3)…ignore the patronizing comments about your wildly unexpected intelligence; and go ahead, let them see you through their rosy monocle, so long as you’re getting properly paid for the role play.

Responses from the community

Earlier this month when Visa and Mastercard announced their break with Backpage, the international sex worker community responded with panic and rage, especially those of us in the criminalized United States. One American worker, Charlotte, wrote to Tits and Sass via Tumblr message saying:

As far as the visa Mastercard situation I know myself and a few friends in the same line of work feel pretty screwed over. Probably will have to turn to more free styling, dealing in cash, and working on the streets. Definitely not what I want to be doing, and a lot more unsafe. Nobody is happy here.

The situation looked particularly bleak for male escorts and trans women escorts, especially if they didn’t have the means and class capital to market themselves on independent web sites as “high-end,” because there are fewer spaces for these populations to advertise in lower to middle end escort markets. “For low income guys backpage is really the only safe way to advertise,” Silas X told Tits and Sass on Facebook chat. “…Now I have to rely on turning tricks in bars and the occasional craigslist massage job…There’s grindr too but like [Craigslist] they block you if they find out you’re working.”

Sarah, the Australian trans woman escort who pointed out the problem with Backpage’s free post filtering, wrote a Tumblr message explaining,

It’s really frustrating here because trans women have nowhere else to go–our equivalents of EROS don’t have trans categories, so don’t show up in trans search terms, and have no trans advertisers…

There were many reasons people turned to Backpage’s adult services ads for safety and anonymity, and thus many different people now had different causes for worry. Raisa, a Canadian escort, told Tits and Sass over Tumblr,

im with an agency but have been doing indie stuff on the dl (agencies out here will boot you or fuck you up if you work on the side while youre with them) and backpage is the only site i could get enough attention on for shitty pics that my agency would not recognize as me.

Ironically, Visa and Mastercard’s decision increased the control Raisa’s agency had over her, as well as the control other third parties had over escorts, though Sheriff Dart’s justification in asking them to drop Backpage was to prevent trafficking and exploitation.

In many small town and rural areas, Backpage was the only major advertising venue available for independent sex work. “…people outside cities need backpage bad,” as Silas X succinctly put it.

“…in more rural areas I have no idea what the girls are going to do,” Raisa told us. “a lot of them have already been considering moving to cities where the industry is bigger like toronto, and dont have other advertising options for where they live.”

As the first two weeks of July moved along, many escorts, massage workers, and fetish workers found their own solutions to the Backpage problem—whether that meant learning Bitcoin, finding other loopholes that allowed them to buy Backpage credits, advertising on other lesser-known low-end sites or moving to high-end sites like Eros, or turning to other forms of sex work in the interim.

But the unease the incident ushered in remained. “I get anxious that any site can just change policies and payment options whenever they please (or else disappear like MyRedbook did), so I feel super vulnerable and insecure about how I’ll be able to make $ in the future,” Bee stated.

On Tumblr, sexapro20mg confided, “Now that backpage is on shaky ground (I mean it still works with bitcoin but clients are already talking about abandoning it – I’ve been reading forums and message boards on this) honestly I’m pretty scared.”

Many sex workers are still mystified by how a mere county sheriff like Dart had so much sway over huge international corporations like Visa and Mastercard. DT, an East Coast American escort, asked us over Facebook, “…the asshole sheriff, why does he have so much power anyway?? Is he friends with people in high places?”

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Boston July 21, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Thank you for this amazing update! It’s a great read!!


VIP Veronica August 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hi Carly,
As an independent escort since late 2010, I was very interested in what you had to say regarding backpage. Where I am, geographically and in he industry, it’s been “news”, in the way that newbs will post it on a board and say wow-I saw this, does affect us? To 9 out of 10 readers on that board, it was not much more than a shoulder-shrug. It’s been a few years since Craigs List finally got taken down. And, Backpage is starting to fight that same battle. I don’t think this was a surprise to anyone? Craig’s List was more moving at the time, than whatever happens going forward with backpage. It was the first to go down.
I need to correct your next paragraph, that was full of misinformation and inaccurate characterizations regarding Eros.
SOME of the Eros characterizations you made, and the conclusions you say are being drawn “by providers” is inaccurate.
1) On a personal note-you don’t speak for me. And, you couldn’t be more wrong. The two quoters you referenced, were your supporting statements for your assertion that “this is how escorts feel about it”. Uh, we don’t. In fact, I think chasing the idiot train of this week’s Green Dot, Last month’s paypal, next month’s bitcoin-as a shield for protecting yourself, is one of the minor things that can be done. Why? Ummmm, well, all transactions are traceable, and you can’t buy those anonymously. So, in effect-you pay in “anonymous methods” of varying hassle/cost/ and complete waste of time-for the 1 month that it works, until it fails, and then you are in a tizzy on to the next thing. I cannot even get involved in those “chicken little” threads-about what do we use for payment methods.
How about Cash? (Money order if you must) How about, there is nothing wrong with using a credit card? Keep it separate from your regular ones.
Don’t try to get a card in a name that does not exist-because THAT IS fraud. The amount of misinformation and general panic because of it (that people put into these message board threads)-it boggles my mind that they don’t all have ulcers.
Make smart, sound decisions. If you get pulled over- and you decide that you have done nothing wrong and want to argue constituionality with a police officer…expect to see every stop along the way in the justice system. It may well exhonerate you. But, it will cost you money, time, and may be impossible to prove. So, all you’ve done is spend a huge amount of time and money to try to get other people to believe what you already believe, which is-you’ve done nothing wrong.

Who Cares. This is not about advocacy, govt regulation or decriminalization. If you are in business-and if you Carly, are writing an article or an editorial about factors in business and in an industry of any kind-keep the focus sharp. This is not about beliefs. If you believe Eros to be unsafe BECAUSE they Require the ability to verify that you are of legal age, before you can do business with them….that is the most backwards rationale I’ve ever heard.

Any company you are not comfortable doing business with, it is your responsibility to know this. Do your own research, don’t Look for “opinions”-of people that Do business with them. Study them, and decide for yourself. Noone is trying to recruit you to be an eros advertiser. If you don’t want to provide what they require-spend your advertising $’s somewhere else. Instead you go further, making allusions and then statements that this somehow indicates Collusion. That is actually near libelous.
(I know in today’s blog world, mass media isn’t taught well, but libel is illegal. You can state opinions, but you don’t have a constitutional right to post inaccurate information (with any intent in mind) on a business, simply because you want to call it fact and not your opinion.
End of Story. That’s why it comes across as personal, when you write an article about something as flimsy and doomed as backpage (who themselves operate under the motto, that it is not their responsibility if You are breaking the law, and they will happily provide IP’s (which-provide your exact location btw), etc with minimal fight at the request of LE (wow, good thing they never saw your picture. Almost everyone shows faces and google image search-yeah, that’s how I found you). This to me is collusion in more meaningful ways than Eros’s Policy to avoid having any police involved.

On the other hand, you paint Backpage as a victim in some ways-and, in some ways they are. But, your conviction in this, seems to be that “well here’s Eros-and because I think they are trying to act like they are above any industry nastyness…that’s unfair to bp, too! And, that makes them even worse! (wicked witch of the west theme)!.
That is not only patently absurd, it is having a different standard for one vs the other because of your own inferiority complex re: Eros.

We women, have to learn how to separate emotions from business. You may feel all of these things, but one isn’t because of the other in this big ball. It is simple choices and your own assessments.
Villifying a Responsible business, because you and your two quoters don’t like the pricing…seems almost like you have an advertising interest at backpage. Is that possible?
In all the articles, news stories, and numbers that you quoted (i.e. Eros did not institute the request for photoID in any connection to RedBook. It was in effect, since I personally know, before July 2010. You never used them yourselves-or you would have stated your own experience with providing your ID (or saying that they didn’t require it of you-you make the conclusion that it IS a policy, they just made it up and never enforced it….you couldn’t make that conclusion if that had been your One experience, but it would be Some kind of a supporting statement. All you state are your opinions and two quotes about how 2 individual “escorts” feel-and it’s not clear either of Them has ever used Eros.= One hopes they don’t lose backpage, and one hopes they don’t have to change to only using Eros.).

The FACTS are:

-that new advertisers are not required to send in ID
-concealing your face and other characteristics that allow us to determine age- will increase the chance you’ll be asked for ID
-strict age policies keep Eros out of the media eye and lessen our overall risk profile

Another assertion you made was a connection to Redbook.
Redbook was more of a regional local board, with advertising. Much like the NW. They have a quasi board/ad system of much smaller regional stuff.

Eros and Redbook were not competing enterprises, they are supplemental information. (much like Review Boards and Screening Sites; or Purely Ad Sites and Review boards-they work together. You see the ad, then you go check out the stats/info/rep,etc on the person from the ad.

Another point was saying that Eros and Backpage are competitors. I disagree from a business standpoint-there may be incidental crossover (actually some use both together), but there is no loss of business to one, as a result of business to the other.
It’s a moot point tho.
They aren’t hoping the other goes down. I don’t think Eros takes away Any money from bp, and trusts me-nobody wants backpage to not exist. First of all, where will all the busts come from? (more below on that), and if backpage advertisers only have Eros-it would dilute my carefully selected market and the advertising platform I spend money on.

The market has created both. And, they service two different businesses.
It’s a lengthy process in some ways to create and build an ad, not to mention a brand. And, it doesn’t take much to pay $1-2 for a Backpage ad.
Subpoints to correct you on re: Backpage- whether or not Anything they do/have done is reactionary- 1) those are not new prices. That’s why people use backpage-they don’t want to or don’t choose to spend $ on their advertising (for a number of reasons, it does not make sense for their business model. End of Story-that is their advertising site).
2) With an almost Zero dollar amount paid by their advertisers, Backpage has ZERO reason to even make their interface appear any more advanced than early DOS. It’s horrible. It’s an elementary level site, tools, it’s literally less complex design-wise than a word-press doc.
And, why Should they spend tons of $ on security, restrictions, etc.? It’s a cash cow, until they shut it down. And, they will keep it going, and live and die by their mass hits (1/2 name recognition, 1/2 SEO ranking and re-directs.
They have no monetary impetus to do anything to impede advertisers ability to post as many ads, times, $1 increments as they can with any sort of safety measures-it’s apples and oranges.
They prob have 50 sites/domains-set up and ready to transfer SEO certificates, and you will go right to the next site, when BP goes down.
It’s the lesson learned from Craigs List. After Craigslist shut down, there was Still such a Massive demand for low/no cost advertising, despite the risks on both sides. The fact is that 98% of all industry related crimes, and arrests (as in STINGS) come from backpage only ads. ****Ding ding ding. The low-hanging fruit. And, I for one-am thrilled. I screen diligently, I do not let my guard down regarding LE activity or cleverness, but they are overrun with the Masses of people (every 6 mos it’s a new blurb about sugarbaby/daddy sites, seeking arrangements-those are just as bad if not worse than bp (If you really want to talk about escort victimization).
Child Trafficking-no matter how you feel about Escorts, Prostitution, Women’s Lib, Empowerment, Regulation, Decriminalization of Anything. Child Victimization is the Animal Abuse of Political Rallycries. Everyone is against hurting animals and victimizing children.
So, it is the standard bearer for any police or more importantly-Politician driven…sex-industry attacks from law enforcement.
That is how they get the funding, the man power, and the sentiment to pass legislation-that does nothing to help true child victims. We all know that. It’s what they say to get the federal funding to do whatever it is they are being pressured to do in their own jurisdiction.
The Situation with Cook County..I’m surprised you are suprised. Large Metro City Politics-is like Academia-their bravado and high-pressure, not so clever deals-would make DC blush. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so prevalent and destrutive.
City Politics, from Sheriffs, to Mayors to school boards-is notoriously corrupt (check out Anything on Any City that has ever Built, Looked at Building, or Replaced a Pro-Sports Stadium. It is the worst of the worst in slimey political rendering.
I toured Chicago for years, and in 2012, we were hearing…the Banks are Under Pressure (and, if you’ve toured Chicago, you know-it’s a Chase town). Well, they were making a stink, applying pressure to the banks (like Paypal was trying to do) to sieze, or threaten to sieze accounts of escorts (it’s totally illegal, no way to prove it, it’s a tactic-more effective in it’s hassle and panic effects, than in sweeping change or legitimate legal cause). But, like any city politician, hey that’s suddenly our president now, lol-same city) if you bully someone an inch-you write a new stump speech and get another inch, declare it a movement…and, you’ll get a few feet before it flops as the ridiculous and illegal manuevering that it is.
What EROS has done through all of this, is not gotten into all of this. That is what I expect from anyone that is providing me a service. I spend my money (in life) wisely, and effectively-with businesses who meet and strive to exceed my expectations. If this is your specialty-you better be a step ahead of me, not the other way around. And, it is definitely more money-but, with that, comes a little bit more than a bp enterprise-with one guy in his basement making sure the servers get new bandwidth for his gigantic kid-looking website called backpage…..it is a corporation, with staff, sales department, marketing, research, IT departments, a sustainable business that has a vested interest in escorts. We are their bread and butter.

And, the biggest thing you need to know about avoiding getting into trouble…..is not where or how your personal info is stored….it’s not becoming a target.

So, Eros in their wisdom (I imagine them saying to themselves-well, if that’s going to be a focus of activity, we want to make sure we go above and beyond expectations, before there WERE any expectations, to hold ourselves to a standard that puts us as far away from any scrutiny as possible.

Sites like Redbook-you cited, got shut down last year. Not because they did anything wrong. But, because they were vulnerable to being a focus of attention/and an easy place to find child-trafficking examples. There were no rules, so they were sitting ducks. Other sites Like Naughty Reviews-they have turned themselves inside out in the last year, trying to catch up and “comply”/reinvent their site to make them “not a a paid advertising site for escorts”…because That would mean-police could look and see if any one was using funds promoting anyone underage. That’s prosecutable. It’s the nuts and bolts, not the spirit of the cause.

Eros made it a non-issue. They nipped in the bud, by being able to guarantee that ever single photo/person advertised here, was verified to be over 18, With a photo ID.

Authorities have no basis for even requesting interference with Eros.
How do you most effectively diffuse a situation? – turn into the skid.

Eros isn’t being nosey by verifiying our ID’s. But, they are the wall, that keeps us focused on our business. Noone wants to be associated with the victimization of children or any other nonsense.
But, being the first to comply and the ones who set the standards for everyone else in the industry-makes you beyond reproach. If you think that what the authorities are focused on, what the Key to your downfall as an escort advertiser -is them finding out who you are, by getting subpoena’s for all ID’s eros has? You are missing the forest for the trees.
There’s nothing prosecutable about having your ID there. And, this isn’t a Dateline special where they show your name.

Where you went off point-was in lumping that, wtih saying-we are under threat from stalkers, spouses, etc. Well-that may be.. But, that has NOTHING in the world to do with Eros’s LONG-STANDING policy of verifying you are of legal age, before you are able to even access the site to start creating an ad.

These are two different threats, in which eros is only involved in one. And, your personal life-isn’t that one.

Those Are issues, for another discussion, but there is no causation in those fears that is relevant to the points being discussed here re: advertiser site risks and current pressures in the industry.


becky October 10, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Wow, you think you’re so sophisticated, yet all you do is drip distain and superiority and deign to write us a novel over here. Go blow it out your bleached blond ass. People who are jerks and lecture the world about not being emotional….PLEASE. You also distort the well reasoned and comprehensive information contained in this post as if somehow the opinions expressed (yes, opinions) are legally defaming, lol, which is so wrong-headed as to be flat out ridiculous. Finally, you are openly dismissive of abused womens’ concerns over loss of privacy and security. What a sad, sorry human being you are. I’m glad you’re comfortable having your photo ID on file at EROS, (so do I) but I am not sticking my head in the sand and pretending that isn’t a major loss of my right to privacy or a risk in the event their site is hacked, one of their staff decides to go into the blackmail business or the US government decides to supeona for whatever reason. Personally, I think your smug condescension and complacency is likely to be your downfall – but after reading your Opus over here, please forgive me for not caring a fig or a fiddle.


BP July 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm

A couple of things:

First, just adding that I am even more reluctant to use ad platforms that require IDs (or other personal info, or face photos) after the recent Ashley Madison hack/leak – I don’t use AM, but I know Sugar Babies and other sex workers who do. I like Slixa’s policies (no ID) but they are expensive and seem to only net clients in NYC, from my experience. Someone recently suggested using adultwork.com…anyone have luck there?

Also re: Boston and RI…does this mean that workers in these areas should expect more LE on backpage, or an upcoming sting? Or that the adult section in these cities will be shut down altogether? What should we be anticipating/planning for?


Caty Simon July 21, 2015 at 7:32 pm

It’s unlikely that a) Backpage will shut down its adult ad section like MA Attorney General Maura Healey is asking them to do (Backpage seems to be digging its heels in for the long haul in this fight, as the breaking news on their federal lawsuit vs. Sheriff Dart demonstrates) or that b) the Communications Decency Act will be amended by Congress anytime soon as RI Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is requesting, as this Act is important for more than just adult ad sites–lots of sites don’t want to be legally liable for third party postings. To put the latter in perspective, as I mentioned in the article, the National Association of Attorneys General have been urging Congress to amend the Act since 2013. In MA, AG Healey has been an hardcore anti-trafficking proponent for years–she’s sat on boards and task forces on the issue. But could this new wave of anti-Backpage sentiment make for more LE enforcement on Backpage and more stings this summer? Quite likely. People should definitely be careful–as a MA resident myself, I’m diligently following local news.


Susan July 21, 2015 at 6:43 pm

“…the asshole sheriff, why does he have so much power anyway?? Is he friends with people in high places?”

Yes, he is. Tom Dart is the errand-boy of Swanee Hunt, billionaire financier of Demand Abolition. I hope Tits and Sass does an article on her.


Caty Simon July 21, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Tits and Sass’ column Big Mother Is Watching You, a guide to prominent anti-sex worker activists and officials, has an entry on Swanee Hunt in its first installment, Big Mother Is Watching You: Mistresses of the Universe: http://titsandsass.com/mistresses-of-the-universe-swerfs-to-watch-out-for/ . But if a contributor wanted to write a larger feature on her, we’d love that!


Susan July 21, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Well, I’m betting Swanee Hunt is behind this Backpage fiasco, because she would have the clout to do something like this, not some two-bit Chicago sheriff.


Caty Simon July 22, 2015 at 10:05 am

Hey, Susan, any links/articles on the connection between Dart and Hunt?


Susan July 27, 2015 at 1:48 am


becky October 10, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Swaaaan-eee, how ah luvs ya, how ah luvs ya, my dear old Swanee! Man she sounds like someone that needs to be slapped right across her mouth. I am so looking her up. I’ll bet she’s a major piece of work.


becky October 10, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Oops. I take it all back. She seems like a decent person, very much of a liberal persuasion, who sits on task forces promoting gender equality and womens’ rights in third world nations (such as ours, lol?). I have noticed that a lot of well meaning people do not make necessary distinctions between commercial sex between consenting adults and between exploited children. In my opinion, this simply points to the fact that it is early in the conversation we are having as a society and that this issue is bound to evolve as people begin to really join the discussion and broaden it away from sound bites and cozy assumptions.


Anon July 24, 2015 at 10:44 am

I just wanted to comment on this statement:

“But according to Cryptocoin News, this policy seems to be the company’s independent decision, not their response to any government regulations or law enforcement scrutiny.”

Coin Cafe is currently applying for the NY BitLicense, so that’s the scrutiny that they’re under (and the reason for the policy).


Caty Simon July 24, 2015 at 11:25 am

Doesn’t explain the rudeness and condescension of Coincafe’s message, nor its threat to snitch on sex workers to federal and state authorities–most financial services which exclude sex workers stop at closing their accounts, but Coincafe seems to want to go to the whorephobic extra mile. And what about all the countries in which sex work is legal or decriminalized? Why are Backpage users from those countries barred from using the wallet hosting service?


Anon July 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm

No one actually stops at closing accounts – if you know that a customer is using bitcoins for illegal activity, you need to file a report on them (at least in NYC, where they are located). Other companies may not be upfront about this, but it’s a federal regulation. If the company doesn’t file a full report, they can get into legal trouble.

They primarily focus on US customers – I asked and if you’re located somewhere where it’s legal, you can use their website.


Caty Simon July 24, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Posting on Backpage is not an illegal activity. This is a spurious argument. And it’s interesting that Coincafe didn’t specify that sex workers in countries where it was legal or decriminalized could still post there in its incredibly aggressive and libelous message.


Anon July 24, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Yes, but because they can’t determine if the customer is posting an illegal ad or not, it make sense for them to exhibit caution, especially as they apply for the BitLicense.

I’m a Bitcoin enthusiast who is disappointed in the misreporting in some of these articles. Not a single article has even mentioned the BitLicense and the regulations that go along with it, when that should have been a key point in the article. Many of the companies that are accepting Backpage users are not required to apply for the BitLicense due to their locations/where they’re incorporated, but if they were incorporated in NYC, they’d also be denying Backpage customers.

Caty Simon July 24, 2015 at 1:23 pm

What is your stake in defending Coincafe, Anon?


Sarah October 1, 2015 at 4:17 am

To post an ad is free but if you want to move your ad to the top all you have to do is delete your it than renew it again. No need to pay. Honestly I like the change to backpage those 12 a post was annoying


becky October 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Your ad doesn’t post to the live list, it is backlined to nowhere’s-ville, something called “additional ads” and no one will see it. Trust me, I was up all night searching for my ads when my phone hasn’t rung for nearly two weeks!!!! Now BP accepts credit cards again if you want to buy credits and use a bank card and their escort and massage ads are only a buck. You post the free ad, which no one will ever see or find, then find the link in your mailbox and re-up for a dollar. This shit should all be legal, and trust me, prohibitions are going the way of the Wild Wild West. In twenty years, it will be regulated, taxed and legit. In the meantime, we suffer.


jazzy January 27, 2016 at 9:20 pm

omg your so right mamas


Sarah October 1, 2015 at 4:21 am

The Backpage change is actually helpful, at least I don’t have to pay $12.00 every time I want to post. It’s free to post. No need to pay a dollar to move your ad to the top, just delete your Live ad and renew it again for free


Michael October 5, 2015 at 4:07 pm

This is so stupid. To fight illegal sex trafficking they disconnect themselves from backpage, eliminating the use of debit and credit cards, both of which are easier to track than bitcoins. If people were really concerned about sex trafficking and the safety of escorts, they’d legalize prostitution, have legal brothels, and regulate the whole thing. But that wouldn’t be “righteous” or “ethical”. Prostitution is soooooo bad. Give me a break. A girl needs money, decides to have sex, and gets paid. Sounds like porn except for easier. If it was legalized, regulated, and taxed I don’t see who wouldn’t benefit from that except for the sex traffickers and old stuck up women that don’t want to please their husbands. A legal brothel could provide security, mandatory std checks every few weeks, a location for police to monitor, and a way to document everyone coming in. It could work like a hotel. The clients coming in would have to provide id and pay using a credit/debit card. They would choose who they wanted to see through a screen that updated depending on who was available, they’d pay for that escort, the brothel would transfer 80-90% of the money keeping 10-20% and the client would be directed to a room. This way the escorts have most of the business handled for them and they have a place to say or just work without having to pay $80 a night for a hotel room. This would dramatically reduce the need for places like backpage and eliminate the need for pimps and middlemen. There would also be designated drivers/security that can allow outcalls and girls without vehicles to get to and from work.


Layla November 6, 2015 at 11:27 pm

This shit is beyond ridiculous they want us to go work on streets and be killed so we can have bread and water . You know it’s going to happen one way or the other so why he an asshole ?! I’ll bet Mr Dart had a bad experience with one escort and this is his way of being a jack off about it. I hope he and everyone he loves burns in hell I am forced to do this and if anything happens to me I will curse him forever.


Ami Strauss April 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm

I wish I knew this before I went back to work last night after a break from working since Summer 2014… as usual I went to a hotel and waited to post to BP until I got a room for the night, expecting my phone to explode as soon as it went live, like it did when I used to work, the volume was crazy.. especially in that area and being kind of a delicacy (bbw)

At first I’m like “why is it free now?” but expected to pay for upgrades with a credit card as usual… but no.. ok? moving on..

After posting I searched my keywords because there were soooo many ads I couldon’t find anything. Even searching BBW, others came up but not I. Why?? i even emailed BP about this.. i could only find myself in the search reaults when i clicked “videos” (I tried that thinking it would help). The next morning (today) only one ad popped up when I search.. I found myself posting ad after ad last night in the same category but only ONE visitor ALL NIGHT (I feel ashamed.. worst night I’ve EVER had).. since it was my first night back and I’m a little hesitant to get back into the lifestyle (outcalls, investing in expensive ads and creating them, etc).

Today i decided i decided in order to have a successful incall.. youre better off shacking uo for a week in the same area and getting a sponsored ad for a week and stack up.

I bought bitcoins on that pax thing, went smoothly and transferred to my BP account so when i have an enitire week to set aside to incalls… because the up charges (something like move to top $2? seems to be just fallong apart.. especially in the search results.

killed my ego and my ambition… used to be so simple. crazy and annoying people, but never a night this bad…


Dutt July 30, 2016 at 10:12 am

Theirs always duttslist, ads are free there too and not hidden after 15 minutes like bp. Give it a try and spread the word,


Angelina August 3, 2016 at 11:08 pm

OK question it is August 3Rd ,2016 after bckpage STOPPED doing free ads for body rub postings and I’ve been a steady advertiser since 2008, I was able to post using visa, on August 1 2016 I went to post using a Pre pd visa and yesterday a gift card, a red bar with the word BLOCKED[M] Shows, I wrote to them they responded with TRY USING ANOTHER AVENUE LIKE BITCOIN OR ROMIT.


They didn’t respond with you can no longer use Visa??

Any info would be appreciated thank you



Leam August 11, 2016 at 11:07 pm

Hi Angelina.

I have been forced to use Bitcoin for sometime now, my friend was telling me that he was able to use visa however, I didn’t believe him until now seeing your comment. He was also put to a stop on using Visa in the past week or so.

Backpage re-trade bitcoins therefore end up making another 20% on top of what they have already made. For that reason they will not stop Bitcoin however, I would have thought that they would lose the extra 20% in advertisers which makes me think that they are also able to avoid tax with this method.

Anyways.. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they have now increased ad prices by 4x. In my line of work, it would no longer be worth using their site as I spend roughly 2.5k per month. I would now have to spend 10k to receive the same amount of custom.. Unsure who’s bright idea that was.



Mandy August 27, 2016 at 1:35 am

Does anyone know why backpage deletes ads? I’ve been having this problem where I post my ad, it goes up for 10 minutes, and then magically disappears. Emailing them is worthless, they don’t reply.

I’ve done sponsored ads, and move to top after 1 hour and always pay to upgrade.

It’s been doing this for like months. What gives? All the ads that stay up seem to be “Asian Spa” I mean c’mon!


tisa October 1, 2016 at 10:28 pm

I am a backpage add user, but recently we can not doing all done (4 step). Could you please tell me how we can done all 4?


tisa October 1, 2016 at 10:29 pm

how we can do all 4 step complete?


Caty Simon July 24, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Interestingly enough, there are a few Bitcoin sex worker supporters talking to Tits and Sass who are interested in providing a positive counterpoint to the coverage on this site and other venues, so you may soon be pleasantly surprised.


Caty Simon July 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm

…but you have to admit that represents incredibly overzealous cooperation with law enforcement in order to avoid being associated with a legal activity which may or may not be connected to a misdemeanor.


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