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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Village Voice Media Responds to Clergy

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Clergy across the nation took out an ad in the New York Times, calling on Village Voice Media company, which owns SF Weekly, to shut down the adult section of its Backpage.com website. They have also launched a petition in partnership with Change.org.

Village Voice Media issued the following statement today:

Today 36 clergy affixed their names to a paid ad and open letter to Village

Voice and the classified ad site Backpage.com. The full page ad was

published in the New York Times. The religious coalition demanded that we close down our legal, adult classifieds. Neither government officials nor God's advocates can dictate such arbitrary control of business or speech.


In August this same religious coalition asked for a confidential meeting regarding Backpage.com. We readily agreed. As we prepared to share our information, we were informed that only four members of the

coalition would attend. 

Village Voice Media then offered to fly, at our expense, all members of

the clerical delegation to New York for the conference. Backpage.com

has extensive, working relationships with law enforcement, from the FBI

to local police. This is part of a concerted effort to protect underage

kids from predators. We looked forward to sharing this data in August.


The version that was printed today had been altered, and left out both

the coalition's request for a private dialogue aimed at solutions, as well as Backpage.com's acceptance of the request, and offer to fund air travel for all interested clergy. Backpage has spent millions of dollars and dedicated countless resources to protecting children from those who would misuse an adult site. Much of this

information is publicly available. For example, the Dayton Daily News

reported last month that:

"To its credit, Backpage this year took major steps to police its ads to help curb sex trafficking," said [Ernie

Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, DC]. "Backpage has been aggressively reviewing their ads and trying to

remove those ads that are unlawful and suggest they involve the sale of

kids for sex," Allen said. "Backpage has reported to us 1,600 ads that

they believe are suspicious." Allen said. "Backpage management appears to

be genuinely committed to helping stop sex trafficking."

It is true that, in carrying out their crimes, criminals continue to utilize

services such as cell phones by Verizon and AT&T, and overnight delivery services such as FedEx and numerous internet sites . But that does not shift the blame from

criminal predators to legal business operators. If someone is caught

shipping contraband through the Post Office, we do

not shut down the U.S. mail.

Complicated issues require sophisticated

solutions, not PR flurries. Adult advertising, as found on Craigslist,

Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Yellowpage.com and numerous other websites is

complicated by those who seek to exploit this technology. And the issues

surrounding the exploitation of children are equally

complex, often involving homelessness, drugs, and abuse at

home.

Backpage.com

is a digital classified site with an adult component that is attempting

to be part of the solution. And we remain open to the possibility of

conversation with these religious leaders.


Original Letter from Clergy to Village Voice Media

Village Voice Media Letter to Rev. Dr. Henderson and other concerned clerics from Sept. 27, 2011

Village Voice Media Letter to Isaac Luria from Oct. 17, 2011.

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