Sample ads on Backpage.com
In the conclusion of a strange case involving sex trafficking, Ashton Kutcher, and one of New York’s newspapers, a federal judge recently ruled that a publication containing ads selling under aged girls cannot be held responsible for the girls’ victimization.
This ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a teenage girl who was sold on the St. Louis regional section of backpage.com. Backpage is a classified ad website that operates many different sites targeted to different regions around the country, much like Craigslist. Although it is supposed to function as a place to do things like buy used cars and place dating ads, in reality the personals section had become a notorious clearinghouse for buying and selling sex.
It’s an open secret that many under aged girls are trafficked through Backpage, as was the case with Craigslist. But after years of complaints that girls were being sold through its “Adult Services” section, Craigslist eventually shut that part of its website down. Backpage has repeatedly refused similar requests. So one girl took matters into her own hands and sued Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, for creating the space where she was trafficked.
While this suit was pending, Village Voice Media went on the defensive and used its print media to try and discredit activists working against trafficking. Its biggest holding, the New York alt weekly The Village Voice, ran a cover article earlier this summer satirizing the career and personal life of Ashton Kutcher, who has spoken openly about the problem of trafficking. The front page of that Village Voice issue even featured the headline “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight”, a direct jab at the “Real Men” ads Kutcher has produced, which encourage men not to buy girls.
I think that no matter how you feel about this ruling in favor of Village Voice Media, the company has acted very poorly. Instead of admitting that crimes are committed and girls are abused through its revenue-generating content, Village Voice Media has instead attacked the very people who are trying to keep girls out of the sex trade. Sure, Ashton Kutcher makes a pretty easy target, but he’s doing good work in bringing to light the trafficking problem that makes girls into commodities. Village Voice Media could at least act like it cares, but it seems to be focused only on its bottom line.
Girl Museum Inc.