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 [ErnieIt is true that, in carrying out their crimes, criminals continue to utilize
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."
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
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.