A new bill from Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) singles out Backpage.com for Congressional censure. Part of Village Voice Media, Backpage.com is the second largest online classified section in the U.S., after Craigslist. Kirk's bill doesn't actually outlaw the site, which would be very difficult because of First Amendment protections. But the hope seems to be that negative publicity will cause Village Voice to shutter Backpage, or at least its "adult" listings section, just as Craiglist closed its erotic services listings in 2010 under similarly concerted pressure.
Kirk says that sites like Backpage "facilitate sex trafficking." Yet many law enforcement officials admit, reluctantly, that Backpage is actually very helpful in their work catching sex traffickers and, if the site were shut down, advertisers would simply move to other, less regulated venues. Women willingly working in the sex trade would also be driven further underground. It's almost like the real crime here is not trafficking but visibility, writes Noah Berlatsky.