Recently, the classifieds website Backpage was banned from using American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, loudly.
The reasoning behind this is that the site is used for sex workers to find customers. The site is said to sell millions of classified ads to women in the United States, and a sheriff in Illinois instigated the shutdown. Before that, MasterCard and Visa had no problem processing transactions for Backpage.
Backpage began accepting Bitcoin at some point, and now it is the only form of payment that works for the website. Of course, the Bitcoin network cannot be shut down. But if you investigate the site, you do see that it is used for sex work largely. These sections are the most active. Then the question becomes: is this a liability or an opportunity to shine for Bitcoin? In essence, how should the Bitcoin community react?
Being that the community is largely libertarian in nature, the response will likely be positive. In the end, it doesn’t matter how these people make their money. What matters is that there is only one reliable way left to process online payments. The Dutch company that owns Backpage has repeatedly said it is not specifically trying to facilitate sex work, but it will also not censor paying customers who are not saying things that are illegal. The ads, after all, are often carefully worded to be informative and innocuous.
So, many see this as an opportunity. Still others will readily point out that this will bring on unwanted attention to Bitcoin, that we will then be subject to being, basically, a community around money for sex and drugs. The community could be defined in harsher terms, even, but not if it were to find some other killer application. Censorship resistance is, after all, not the only feature of Bitcoin. Therefore what needs to happen now is that companies that have a stake in the future of Bitcoin need to start developing around the idea of giving a positive image to the currency.
Is Bitcoin Just Money for Drugs and Sex?
In the mainstream media, bringing up Bitcoin allows you to bring up the Silk Road. Mixing drugs and prostitution just makes sense, and it doesn’t matter if these things would go on regardless of Silk Road or Backpage. It doesn’t seem to matter. What seems to matter is that bitcoins were used in these transactions, or in the case of Backpage, could be used. That’s the worst part. At least with the Silk Road, where Bitcoin became the equivalent of digital drug money, bitcoins were being used. With Backpage, it’s just something the mainstream media noticed, that Bitcoin was an accepted payment method.
Bitcoin, of course, will not shut Backpage down. After all, if you have cash in your pocket, it doesn’t stop being cash just because what you’re doing is illegal or someone with a lot of power doesn’t want it to work for you. It’s still cash until it is destroyed, and it is the same truth with Bitcoin.
Image from Pixabay.