Doing business on Backpage.com is getting shadier after MasterCard announced its removal of payment services for the site, potentially leaving Bitcoin as the last remaining option.
The classified ads site ranks second only to Craig’s List among the largest in the US, picking up substantial business from the latter since 2010, when it discontinued its adult services section.
All three major credit cards had at one point been accepted on the site.
According to International Business Times UK, Backpage sells 1.4 million ads for adult services every month, charging between $5 and $17 each, and generating an estimated $9 million in monthly revenues, or over $100 million annually.
The site has been criticized for facilitating illegal activity. While it has reported suspicious cases to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, it has been accused of not removing potentially illegal content and reporting in bad faith.
Site representatives have claimed that it is an “ally in the fight against human trafficking,” reporting several hundred ads per a month that potentially offer underage sex.
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American Express was the first to pull the plug earlier this year. Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart recently wrote in a letter to Visa and MasterCard:
“I am calling on Visa and MasterCard to do the right thing – defund this criminal enterprise. We have objectively found [websites like Backpage] promote prostitution and facilitate online sex trafficking.
After years of unchecked growth in the online sex trade, it has become increasingly indefensible for any corporation to continue to wilfully play a central role in an industry that reaps its cash from the victimization of women and girls across the world.”
MasterCard has now acceded to the request, a spokesperson saying:
“Based on a request from Cook County Sheriff’s Office, we contacted Backpage’s acquiring bank about the issue. They have advised us that they are terminating acceptances at this time.”
It is expected that Visa will also follow suit, leaving Bitcoin as the last available payment option. There are no central parties capable of removing it.