The world’s largest libertarian student organization — with over 1,500 volunteers across the globe, Students For Liberty (SFL) today condemned the U.S. government’s successful attempts to pressure online classified ad platform Backpage.com into closing their “Adult” section.
The closure is the culmination of years of government pressure, with authorities justifying their actions on the basis that Backpage.com could create a market for child sex-trafficking. As Reason.com’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown put it, “Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and his associates have been subject to lawsuits, criminal charges, economic bullying, and Congressional hearings…in an attempt to thwart this supposed sex trade.”
Daniel Pryor, Media Relations Associate at Students For Liberty, said:
“The congressional inquiry into Backpage.com is the perfect example of how overbearing government tramples on First Amendment rights and ultimately harms marginalized groups.
The government has pressured credit card companies into boycotting the website and subjected Backpage.com to what The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation call an “invasive, burdensome inquiry” that “creates an intense chilling effect” on Internet freedom.
This is a worrying attack on freedom of expression in the online world.
Sex worker rights organizations and activists have also drawn attention to the various ways in which the closure of Backpage.com’s Adult section will negatively impact sex workers. Student sex workers, often entering the adult industry in response to the artificially high cost of college caused by government subsidies, are no exception. Regardless of one’s personal views on sex work, big government should not be interfering with free contract between consenting adults.
Perhaps most tragically, the government’s actions will make life more difficult for victims of child sex trafficking. Lawmakers congratulating themselves for this misguided moral crusade are ignoring the crucial role that Backpage.com played in cooperating with law enforcement to identify children victimized by prostitution.”
Students For Liberty is committed to defending free expression, whether it takes place on college campuses or the Internet. We also stand with coalitions like the Desiree Alliance and organizations like Amnesty International in calling for full decriminalization of sex work and condemning the U.S. government’s war on the consensual adult industry.
Our activists hold a variety of personal opinions on sex work, but are united on the question of decriminalization. Anna Shnaidman, SFL’s National Coordinator for Israel, opposes sex work on a personal level but believes that government intervention in the adult industry (whether legalization or criminalization) “hurts the people it claims to protect and is a tragedy despite good intentions.” Students across the United States are increasingly wary of government attempts to curtail freedom of expression and sexual freedom, even in less publicized areas such as adult ads.