Undercover detectives in Nashville, Tenn. responded to an advertisement in the Adult section of Backpage.com, a website owned and operated by Village Voice Media. They posed as customers and arranged a hook-up at a local hotel. They arrived at a room where two under-age girls were awaiting, ready to perform sex acts for money.
The girls weren’t turning tricks on their own. Their pimp, who recruited them from out of state, was waiting for them in the hotel parking lot, where the detectives arrested him on charges of trafficking for sexual servitude.
The arrest in the Volunteer State was no aberration. Over the past three years, more than 50 individuals in 22 different states have been charged with trafficking in minors on Backpage.com.
Yet, Village Voice Media accepts no culpability whatsoever for the under-age girls (and boys) who’ve been pimped out over its website. And it adamantly refuses to eliminate the section of its website that accepts sex-related advertisements.
“Censorship will not rid the world of exploitation,” the company states, cavalierly.
Well, Village Voice Media’s recalcitrance has precipitated a much-deserved backlash. This past Thursday, Change.org, a campaign started by more than 650 faith leaders, released a petition with nearly a quarter-million signatures demanding that Backpage.com stop enabling sexual trafficking in minors.
The campaign also held a rally outside the New York City offices of the company’s flagship publication, The Village Voice. Among the rally’s noteworthy speakers was John Buffalo Mailer, son of Village Voice co-founder and renowned author Norman Mailer.
The Voice, said Mailer, has “lost its way from the days when Dan Wolfe, Ed Fancher, and my father began it.” He implored the current ownership, “For the sake of the Village Voice brand and for the sake of the legacy of a great publication, take down the Adult section of Backpage.com before another child is abused and exploited.”
If the protest by the more than 650 faith leaders, the petition signed by nearly a quarter million concerned citizens, the appeal by the son of one the Voice’s co-founders do not persuade Village Voice Media’s current ownership to stop taking dirty money from criminals pimping under-age girls and boys, itis time for law enforcement to bring the hammer down.
Village Voice Media, publisher of 13 “alternative” newspapers around the country, including the Village Voice itself, was put on notice last August by the nation’s 50 state attorney generals that Backpage.com is an online “hub” for sexual trafficking in minors.
The state AGs should work hand in hand with the U.S. Justice Department to shut down the website’s Adult section. And they should drag company executives out of their offices – kicking and screaming if need be – and charge them with knowingly and willfully facilitating the criminal exploitation of children.