#chargeisdeclined – backpage.com unable to take mastercard or visa payments
#chargeisdeclined is a hash tag that has become a trend on Twitter within the sex work community.. Why? you may ask. Because the website backpage.com which is a website that many sex workers across the world use to advertise their services is now unable to process credit card payments to pay for their advertising. The reason behind this is that MasterCard and Visa have made it that cards with their logo on them cant be used to pay for adult service ads on backpage.com..
It comes because of pressure from US law enforcement, who claim Backpage.com is a tool used by sex traffickers.
Visa said in a statement that it had “taken action to stop processing payments for backpage.com,” and that the company’s rules “prohibit our network from being used for illegal activity. Visa has a long history of working with law enforcement to safeguard the integrity of the payment system.” (reference Buzzfeed Article – Rob Scott)
Now I cant speak for those in the US who use Backpage.com to advertise their services, but as a sex worker in Australia this policy is going to have a massive impact on sex workers in Australia. The reason being is that those who are starting out in the industry, or those in cities where backpage is one of the main effective places to advertise services or those who don’t wish to spend a small fortune on advertising on escort specific directories and all those in between who choose to use backpage are going to be negatively affected. It will result in a loss in income for many sex workers in Australia. Remember that sex work is either legalised or decriminalised here in Australia which means the statement made by visa about not processing payments for illegal activity could be viewed as discrimination. The only payment option currently available is Bitcoin and for many this may be an option that isn’t effective for many.
Here in Australia, those who are members of the sex work community understand that there are sex traffickers out there, we understand that there are those who are victims of sex trafficking and we want to stamp that out as much as anybody. But by making visa and mastercard payments unavailable isn’t going to stop these traffickers, it isn’t going to rid the world of these people because they will always find a way to traffick people. So by putting this policy in place you are making it difficult for those who willingly choose to be sex workers to make an income, pay their rent and their bills by not being able to use a site that is an effective advertising tool for thousands of sex workers across Australia.
This policy puts those who are already marginalised, discriminated against and who deal with stigma on a daily basis in even more vulnerable position and will bring many closer to the poverty line. It will effect those who are working within the legal framework here in Australia in a position of potentially losing work because of this. There are much more effective ways to deal with sex trafficking and child trafficking then not allowing sex workers the freedom to pay for our advertising. Now this is from an Australian Sex Workers point of view and how it will effect us here. But remember this could have a massive impact for those sex workers in the US who have to deal with the varying levels of illegality they have over there and this could potentially do more harm then good for thousands not just in Australia but in the US too. This doesn’t stamp out trafficking on backpage, this will push things further underground for some which potentially then makes it harder to track and bring down traffickers rather then stop them in their tracks.
So to MasterCard and Visa I think its time to understand the laws for sex work here in Australia and understand there is quite a chance for a lawsuit for discrimination if you continue with this policy.
References & Articles.