Recently, MasterCard, the last credit card to allow payments to Backpage, announced that MasterCard users will no longer be able to purchase Backpage ads through the credit card. As of now, Bitcoin is the only payment method accepted by Bitcoin.
Backpage is a classified advertisement, similar to sites like Craig’s List. The site offers listings in a variety of industries, including automotive, jobs, and real estates. In the United States, Backpage is the second largest classified listings website, behind Craig’s List. Backpage also offers listings for “adult” services, which is the source of controversy between the sites and payment processors.
Although the site officially prohibits the listing of illegal services, such as prostitution, however that hasn’t stopped its users from soliciting sex to anonymous buyers. Backpage monitors its adult section for advertisements offering illegal services, and informs law enforcement of any listings attempting to solicit underaged sex. Regardless, Backpage is still responsible for 70% of all prostitution advertisement that occurs between 5 websites that offer adult listings within the US.
Backpage has been under controversy for allegedly fueling the sex trafficking industry within the US. The decision for MasterCard to discontinue support to Backpage came after heat from Illinois law enforcement.
Discontinued support from MasterCard and Visa was intended to cripple the site, and force it to remove the adult section completely. However, the actions taken by the payment processors did not have the intended effect. Rather than shutting down, Backpage users simply began paying through Bitcoin.
A majority of Backpage users did not use Bitcoin prior to this decision by MasterCard, but that did not stop users from adapting. For many independent sex workers, leaving Backpage means taking their work to the streets, a much more dangerous alternative. Although many users had no prior knowledge of Bitcoin, the ease of the cryptocurrency and support of the community has made the transition relatively painless, and many are learning the advantages the digital currency holds over credit cards already.