Contact: Katie Bloomquist

We at SWOP-USA are disheartened, disappointed, and furious to hear that yet another advertising platform that sexworkers use to screen clients and advertise their services has been seized by the FBI.

Online advertising services like that of Backpage serve several necessary functions for sex workers –
1.they connect workers with clients, who pay the bills
2.they help keep sex workers safe by allowing sex workers to screen and verify clients with other providers before meeting
3.they can allow for establishing advance boundaries and types of behavior before meeting a client
4.they can shield sex workers from police abuse, arrest and violence experienced more often by street-based sex workers (due to more contact with law enforcement)

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. Street-based sex workers who need support are often unable to connect with social services – Backpage, like other websites that came before it such as MyRedBook.Com, and Rentboy, helped close this gap by making screening, verification of clients, and police abuse much less likely to occur (until the online sting operations begun, but that is another statement piece).

The seizure of Backpage is another example of state-sanctioned violence against the sex work community and their families. To do this in the name of anti-trafficking is absurd, as this drives trafficking further underground and makes it more difficult to access the most marginalized members of any group of people – whether they be exploited or not.

We fear the FBI seizure and shut down of Backpage is related to the recent legislation aimed at reducing sex trafficking (SESTA/FOSTA) – unfortunately, closing Backpage increases the vulnerability of the most marginalized among our community as they will have less of an ability to screen clients and advertise their services.

Backpage was initially sued in 2016 by Senator Kamala Harris, whom you can contact here to express any thoughts and feelings to here.

Shutting down advertising websites and punishing those who attempt to make sex work safer serves to push sex workers further into the shadows and cuts sex workers off from vital social services, from each other, and increases vulnerability to violence.

We at SWOP-USA stand with our sex worker community now and always and will do everything within our power to fight back against these disastrous shutdowns and raids.
With love and in solidarity,
Katie and the SWOP-USA Board of Directors