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When the Department of Justice unceremoniously shut down Back last week, it was the first public-facing step in a sweeping criminal case against the website's executives. The site had served as a microcosm of a larger debate on prostitution in recent years, and the seizure of what the DOJ called the "Internet's leading forum for prostitution " ignited swift reactions on both sides.

Meanwhile, sex workers across the U. While many sex workers told The Arizona Republic they would continue posting on other smaller websites, they also worry about the future. On Wednesday morning, President Trump ed a bill giving prosecutors more power to go after websites that knowingly host sex-trafficking . It also gives women who claimed they were trafficked the ability to sue. It's not clear how websites will respond. After the bill passed Congress, for example, Craigslist took down its singles . And as the bill was moving through Congress, Back restricted postings on singles to photos, phone s and web links.

After the Back closure April 6, an Arizona-based sex worker called Vegas said she relied on her regular clients to get her through that weekend. Prostitution is still illegal in 49 states, the exception being certain counties in Nevada. For this reason, The Arizona Republic has agreed to withhold the sex workers' legal names for this story. In Canada, selling sex is legal, but buying it isn't.

Vegas said Back afforded her more anonymity than meeting strangers in public. And it gave her a barrier to screen her clients and meet them in a safe place. The woman described how she would have unknown clients call from her cross street so she could check them out from her window.

A Michigan woman who goes by the name Sarah Fenix on Twitter posted a viral thread about how the ability to screen on Back saved her from riskier sex work. Back didn't turn me into a sex worker, any more than Youtube can turn people in musicians or comedians. It was just the medium. A really good, really helpful medium that was free and accessible. Fenix told The Republic she used the site to test the client before they met up.

Fenix said she is no longer in the business and now works a "cube" job. Seeing the closure of Back though, she said, was like watching hood house burn down. Advocates for decriminalization say the sex industry will always be around, and regulation would make it safer. Those against it argue that selling sex, by nature, is abusive. Advocates have succeeded in changing police attitudes about prostitutes from being seen as criminals to women in need of rescue.

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PHOENIX — A federal judge on Tuesday halted the criminal trial of former executives and employees of the Back website, saying the government, in presenting its case, unfairly tainted the jury with testimony about child sex trafficking, instead of focusing on the crime at hand — whether the defendants helped facilitate sex work. Lacey and Larkin founded the Phoenix New Times, held ownership interests in other weeklies such as The Village Voice and ultimately sold their newspapers in While prosecutors say the site published many that depicted children who were victims of sex trafficking, no one in the federal case in Arizona is charged with sex trafficking or child sex trafficking.

The pair started Back to serve as an online home for classified advertising, similar to the sometimes-racy that appeared in the back of the printed newspaper. But the government said that the two, in a conspiracy with other executives and two employees, did more than merely publish . Instead, the government said, the defendants knowingly worked to lure sex workers and pimps to the website, cornering the market on thinly veiled for sex work. In all, six former Back operators have pleaded not guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution.

Of the six, Lacey, Larkin and two others have pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges.