Beyond backpage

Buying and Selling Sex Online in the United States
One Year Later


On 6 April 2018, the United States Department of Justice seized the dominant online commercial sex marketplace Backpage. Five days later, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) / Allow States and Victims To Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was signed into law. These twin events dramatically changed the online distribution layer serving the underground commercial sex economy (UCSE) in the United States, which in turn fuels sex trafficking across the country.

This report from childsafe.ai briefly summarizes the immediate online disruption following April 2018, covers the resulting economic dynamics in three categories of online communities serving the UCSE and analyzes their import for sex trafficking in the United States.

Key findings include:

  • Quantifying the decline in demand for sex online

  • Identifying signals that suggest a decline in supply for sex online

  • Observing scale and reach of online ecosystems where sex is bought and sold online including advertising websites, hobby boards and sugar daddy websites

  • Measuring the increase of spam and scam advertising in these ecosystems

  • Observing changes in price dynamics nationwide

  • Inferring import for sex trafficking