Liara Roux is an “exclusive San Francisco escort,” of the upscale variety, and she has been impacted by the recent decision of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to cut off Backpage.com, a place that people in her industry often solicit customers.
Bitcoin is censorship resistant. Even if the government ordered someone to shut down Bitcoin for a site like Backpage, they’d be unable to do it. So long as the people at Backpage could create a wallet, they could receive money. This is by design, considered a feature, not a bug. Whereas with many of the legacy systems, it’s pretty basic to shut off an account. Banks and others wield this power for legal and other justifications, but in the end, the movement of money should only be up to its owners. There shouldn’t be other parties in between. This is the very premise of Bitcoin, which is why the situation with Backpage strikes to the heart of the Bitcoin movement.
Roux writes in her blog:
This is obviously an awful situation; many sex workers rely heavily on Backpage for their business. While it would be wonderful to have a magic wand and fix this problem, bitcoin is one of the few payment methods still accepted by Backpage and I want to make sure those who need it can use it. Bitcoins may seem scary. It’s a new technology, with lots of technical jargon surrounding explanations of how to use it. The good news is, bitcoin has gotten a lot easier over the past couple of years and it’s not too difficult to learn how to accept and send payments.
Coinbase Could Face Same Pressure
For some reason, Roux goes on to recommend Coinbase. The next story may very well be that Coinbase gives in to the same pressure from law enforcement that drove MasterCard and Visa to shut off Backpage’s accounts. Certainly, it would be wiser for the people in this industry to get their coins directly from an exchange or through LocalBitcoins.
Methods like these would involve less regulated entities that are less likely to cancel the deal based on the end point of the coins. Coinbase is well-known to monitor the activities of the wallets that it provides, and it may well shut down accounts that process transactions to Backpage, just as its cousins in the traditional financial industry have.
Roux touches on this concern, writing:
If you’re a privacy freak like me or would like to learn more about other options for using bitcoin, Bitcoin.org is a great place to start. I personally use Bitcoin Wallet, but I recommend Coinbase as a more user friendly solution for starting out.
She also recommends that escorts could potentially bill their customers in bitcoins, and then not have to worry about acquiring them to pay for their advertisements. It would seem to be more optimum if people who were put in a position where Bitcoin was their only option had easy routes to go that retained control of their coins with them, and also helped them understand how it all works. A fair point might be that most people don’t know how their fiat money works, either, so there is little difference.
Images from Shutterstock and Liara Roux.