After two years of intense scrutiny from the U.S. Senate and elsewhere, online ad-posting site Backpage.com last night said that it is shuttering its adult services section, which was repeatedly accused by critics of facilitating child prostitution and human trafficking, Politico reports. Backpage said its decision, which came before a Senate panel was set to convene a hearing on the site, was made in the face of pressure that amounted to a violation of the site’s First Amendment rights. “As the direct result of unconstitutional government censorship, Backpage.com has removed its Adult content section from the highly popular classified website, effective immediately,” Backpage said. “For years, the legal system protecting freedom of speech prevailed, but new government tactics, including pressuring credit card companies to cease doing business with Backpage, have left the company with no other choice but to remove the content in the United States.”
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s investigations subcommittee issued a report yesterday accusing the site of knowingly profiting from illegal activity. The study, spearheaded by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), found that Backpage has knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its adult-section ads, that the site’s management knew that it facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking, and that three Americans who claimed to have sold the site to a foreign company in 2014 actually continue to own it.