Today I opened up the NY Times web page to see Nicholas D. Kristoff’s piece “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods” which speaks to how Village Voice Media accepts advertising on their websites which offers lightly veiled solicitations for the services of “escorts” and the like, both male and female. The reality is that this is unvarnished advertising by pimps who have exerted control over individuals whom they force to prostitute themselves.
In reading Kristoff’s piece, I was particularly taken back by this portion, “Liz McDougall, general counsel of Village Voice Media, told me that it is “shortsighted, ill-informed and counterproductive” to focus on Backpage when many other Web sites are also involved, particularly because Backpage tries to screen out ads for minors and reports possible trafficking cases to the authorities. McDougall denied that Backpage dominates the field and said that the Long Island girl was marketed on 13 other Web sites as well. But if street pimps go to jail for profiteering on under-age girls, should their media partners like Village Voice Media really get a pass?” I fully agree with Kristoff, they shouldn’t. As I wrote in my 2010 piece, “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking“, the children are the victims and we must do all we can to help them. I encourage you to read the piece and listen to the voices of the John’s calling the telephone number trying to arrange sex with children.
The Village Voice Media statement concludes with their position: “The inevitable conclusion is that censorship will not rid the world of exploitation.”
I find their response repugnant and reminiscent of ostrich like behavior. I do not believe shuttering Backpage’s adult advertisements as censorship – it is removing an avenue which acts as an enabler for the human trafficking and sex trafficking of men and women. It is closing off an ability by pimps to continue the exploitation of individuals who, as detailed in Kristoff’s piece, are controlled through force and intimidation. I do, however, agree social networks and technology can assist in the identification of those who try to use the advertising medium to offer the services of victims.
The National Association of Attorney’s General formed the Pillars of Hope initiative. The four pillars are:
- Pillar 1: Making the case
- Pillar 2: Hold the traffickers accountable
- Pillar 3: Mobilizing communities to care for victims
- Pillar 4: Public awareness and issue advocacy
For those who think prostitution is a victim-less crime, I encourage you to read Kristoff’s piece and also read “Off the Street” (review) which details the take down of a pimp and rescue of his victims in Las Vegas. Is Village Voice Media the only entity needing addressing, no their statement clearly indicates that they were accompanied by 13 other entities in accepting the advertising.
What can you do right now? Take action of your own. Write to the Chairman & Chief Executive officer of Village Voice Media directly -> Jim Larkin