Backpage.com Unable to Process Visa or Mastercard Payments: #ChargeIsDeclined
#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)
As a sex worker in Australia, I believe that the recent policy change from Mastercard and Visa to no longer process payments for Backpage.com is going to have a huge impact on the industry. While I can’t speak for those in the US who use the site, here in Australia, Backpage.com is a primary advertising tool for many sex workers. This policy will negatively affect those starting out in the industry, those in cities where Backpage is an effective platform, and those who don’t wish to spend a lot of money on escort-specific directories.
It’s important to note that sex work is either legalised or decriminalised in Australia, so the statement made by Visa about not processing payments for illegal activity could be seen as discrimination. Currently, the only payment option available is Bitcoin, which may not be effective for many sex workers.
This policy puts already marginalized and discriminated-against sex workers in an even more vulnerable position and could bring many closer to the poverty line. It will impact those working within the legal framework in Australia and potentially lead to a loss of work. There are more effective ways to combat sex trafficking and child trafficking, and limiting sex workers’ ability to pay for advertising isn’t one of them.
While this is from an Australian sex worker’s point of view, it’s worth noting that this policy could have a significant impact on those in the US who deal with varying levels of illegality. Pushing sex work further underground could make it harder to track and bring down traffickers rather than stopping them in their tracks.
I urge Mastercard and Visa to understand the laws around sex work in Australia and consider the potential for a discrimination lawsuit if they continue with this policy.