A while back I criticized the notion that Backpage was somehow responsible for murders because one guy in Detroit identified his victims from Backpage ads. I argued that Conservatives trying to take down Backpage adult ads ostensibly to make sex workers safer should look in the mirror, given that most of the reason sex workers are at risk is because Conservatives have driven their profession underground.
Far from helping victims like Baby Face, prohibition forces the entire market underground, making it harder to enforce the distinction between minors and adults or between willing and coerced participants. Prohibition forces prostitutes to work in dangerous conditions, picking up customers on the street or covertly connecting with them online, and makes it harder for them to seek legal remedies when they are cheated or abused. These hazards, similar to those seen in black markets for drugs and gambling, are not inherent to the business of selling sex; they are inherent to the policy of using force to suppress peaceful commerce. Since these dangers are entirely predictable, prohibitionists like Kristof should be reflecting on their role in perpetuating them, instead of making scapegoats out of businesses that run classified ads.