WASHINGTON, D.C. – Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, praised the major credit card companies today for no longer accepting payments through Backpage.com. For years, Backpage has profited from ads selling victims and survivors of human trafficking, including minors. The move cripples Backpage’s ability to profit from these ads, while also disrupting traffickers from selling victims online. Bitcoin is now the only payment method available to place these ads.
On Monday, Illinois Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart called on Visa and MasterCard to remove their services as payment options for websites like Backpage.com given they facilitate human trafficking largely unchecked. By Tuesday, MasterCard severed ties with Backpage. Visa ended its business relationship on Wednesday. American Express was removed earlier in 2015.
Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, said:
“Traffickers are selling women, children, and men online against their will across America, and Backpage.com has been fueling this form of trafficking for years. Polaris has directly worked with survivors of trafficking who have been sold on Backpage.com. We commend these credit card companies for making it more challenging for traffickers to profit off of the exploitation of people.
“Companies can play an integral role in disrupting sex trafficking by making it more challenging for traffickers to do business. This action by the leading credit card companies marks a significant step forward in the fight against sex trafficking. Our goals are to disrupt trafficking networks, stop traffickers from harming more people, and help survivors find the services they need. Limiting payment options on Backpage.com will help protect the most vulnerable people in the commercial sex industry in the United States. Polaris applauds Sheriff Dart and his office for leading this successful effort against online sex trafficking.”
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline and BeFree Textline, which are operated by Polaris, have responded to more than 13,000 cases of sex trafficking in all 50 states, where adults and children are forced to provide commercial sex against their will. Hundreds of these cases have referenced Backpage.com. In addition, Polaris has provided direct services to survivors of sex trafficking who have been sold on the site.
Polaris has long called on Backpage to shutter the escorts section of its website, and was involved in successful efforts to pressure Craigslist.com to remove those portions of its website in 2010. Backpage.com remains a significant facilitator of sex trafficking despite attempts the website has made to address human trafficking. Traffickers post advertisements of their victims, or they make their victims post their own ads.
People can receive help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to Polaris at “BeFree” (233733).
Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris acts as a catalyst to systemically disrupt the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. By working with government leaders, the world’s leading technology corporations, and local partners, Polaris equips communities to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.