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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.

References & Articles.

Daily Dot – Is bitcon the future of sex work? – Mary Emily O’hara

Buzz Feed News – Fears U.S. Credit Card Ban Will Force Aussie Sex Workers Into The Streets – Rob Scott

NSWP – Visa and MasterCard Cut Sex Workers Off from Advertising Site

The Daily Telegraph – Aussie sex workers miffed after Mastercard places worldwide ban on customers placing adult ads on Backpage.com – Neil Keene

2 thoughts on “Backpage.com Unable to Process Visa or Mastercard Payments: #ChargeIsDeclined

    • Author gravatar

      Hi Krissy. Interesting post & I essentially agree. I’ve been following the backpage saga on the side because I had been aware of the site for a while and found it interesting to browse, and I’m also a bitcoin nerd (it’s been quite big news in that scene). I actually got to your blog via backpage.

      Forgive me if I’m rude, but I feel like you brushed over bitcoin a little too quickly! I also can’t actually tell if you were being sarcastic about it by labeling it “bitcon” (twice).

      I just wanted to say that situations like the backpage fiasco are Bitcoin’s forte. As much as you or I disagree with Visa & MC’s decision, it is ultimately up to them if they want to transact with you. And they clearly don’t wish to. Sex work is not the first industry to be persecuted by these companies, and bitcoin has been a great solution for some of those other industries/fields.

      You feel that bitcoin may not be an effective option for many…Why is that? Sidestepping financial bullyism is very effective! You can now place ads without being forced to pay a cut to these bullies via their fees. They are bound to fail sooner or later if their business plan consists of “let’s make money by not accepting money.” 🙂

      Anyhoo, it’s been a pleasure to discover such an intelligent, articulate person. I’m going to peruse your other posts now. Thank you to all the fine folk on backpage for keeping the world a happy place. Much respect.

      • Author gravatar

        Hey Scott.

        In terms of the spelling of Bitcoin thats a small grammatical mistake. As to brushing over bitcoin its not something I completely understand myself.

        The reason I feel bitcoin isnt effective for some is because well not everyone understand or feels comfortable using it and I cant talk for everyone but go off comments posts and threads I see by those affected and going off how I have seen some express how they feel about it. At the end of the day here in Australia there are many who use credit card to pay for their advertising on other escort directories and websites with no hassle whatsoever so you can understand the annoyance and frustration when credit card isnt an option on backpage but it is else where…

        Hopefully that responds to some of your points and thanks for your feedback and opinion I appreciate it.

        Krissy.

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