Just as the argument that the regulation of prostitution makes it safer for women is patently misleading, the argument that Backpage.com should keep its “adult services” section in order to partner with law enforcement is a thinly veiled excuse for continuing to reap huge profits from prostitution and human trafficking. The regulation of prostitution allows pimps and traffickers to operate with relative impunity and within the bounds of what is legal. Similarly, Backpage.com creates a marketplace in which pimps and traffickers are able to operate with little ramification and little ability to track their actions.
In effect, Backpage.com and its parent company Village Voice Media, implicitly operate as online pimps and traffickers themselves, reaping as much as $26 million in profits in the last 12 months alone on the sale of adult services advertising. As Yasmin Vafa so aptly points out, there is little gain by law enforcement in allowing this advertising to persist. Temporary credit cards are difficult, if even possible to trace, and the scope of the perpetrators who will be caught through these means is limited in comparison to the number of pimps freely operating online.
The sex industry surely will go elsewhere–but each step further makes it increasingly difficult for the sellers to connect with the buyers, for johns to find where pimps are marketing their victims.