Shutdown of Backpage.com Fails to Blunt Growth in Online Sex Ads

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

The number of sex advertisements posted online continues to rise despite the closure of Backpage.com and federal legislation targeting online sex trafficking. Federal authorities shutdown Backpage.com—which was the single largest online market for commercial sex—and introduced new legislation in April 2018, but smaller websites have moved into the space increasing overall sex advertisements.



The federal “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (FOSTA-SESTA) hold web providers liable for posting content related to sex trafficking. Following passage of FOSTA-SESTA, the volume of online sex ads dropped at least 60 percent between April and July of 2018, according to open media reports.


However, recent data indicate there were 9 percent more online sex ads posted daily in the September to October 2018 time period on leading US-based escort websites—some 146,000 ads—than were posted in March 2018, a month before federal authorities closed Backpage.com, according to Marinus Analytics, a private analytics company.


Websites, such as Escort Babylon, USA Adult Classifieds, and Doublelist, which had temporarily suspended operations after Backpage.com’s collapse, are back in operation. Smaller websites, including Adlist24, AdultWork, VivaStreet, Cityxguide, SeekingArrangement, Sugar-Babies are also taking advantage of business once dominated by Backpage.com.


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