Village Voice & Backpage split, Obama weighs in

  |September 25, 2012

Did you hear? All the actions our online activist community and the broader movement took to demand Village Voice Media shut down the adult section of Backpage have made an impact!

Because of advertiser pressure, Village Voice Media has been forced to split off from its controversial adult ad site Backpage where pimps have placed ads that have resulted in the sale of boys and girls for sex.

This is a HUGE moment in our campaign to shut down Backpage’s adult section. Each of us should be proud of what we’ve done to get here.

  • Over 250,000 people signed the petition calling on Village Voice Media to shut down the Adult section of Backpage
  • We published a letter in the New York Times from faith leaders to Village Voice Media, calling for an end to the unconscionable practice of child sex trafficking
  • You joined us in bringing child sex trafficking out of the shadows by sharing articles from the New York Times‘ Nick Kristof, videos from our partner organizations, and moving stories of survivors
  • John Buffalo Mailer (son of Village Voice co-founder Norman Mailer) joined the campaign and became a leading voice against Backpage’s Adult section
  • We delivered your signatures with a big media splash to the Village Voice HQ in NYC with New York City Council Members, clergy, and local Groundswell members

So where do we go from here?

First, we can’t be fooled by Village Voice Media owners Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin’s blatant attempt to keep their profitable adult ad business open by splitting Backpage from their print publications. Mr. Larkin and Mr. Lacey still own and operate Backpage, which last year made more than $20 million on adult ads. They are still earning money from a site whose ads can be used by predators to buy and sell underage kids for sex, despite Web site policies and safeguards placed on the site.

Second, we need to be rigorous and focused about what a movement of people, motivated by their religious and moral convictions, can do to raise awareness about the issue of sex trafficking in our midst. What are we called to do? What can we say from the pulpit? What can we do from the pews? We are wrestling with exactly these questions right now at Groundswell and Auburn, and we’d appreciate your input.

  • Is sex trafficking your social action issue? What do you see happening on the front lines?
  • Are you an online campaigner, movement builder or justice organizer? What models of collaborative action have been successful for you?
  • Do you participate in a faith community? What resources, tools, and opportunities have made an impact in your calling to pursue justice?

Third, we should also be very proud that President Obama – speaking today at the Clinton Global Initiative – sent a clear message that sex trafficking is a serious problem in the United States and globally. We are deeply grateful to our President for his leadership, and for amplifying our message to trafficked girls and boys: “We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity.” Click here to read the President’s full remarks.

Fourth, we will need to refocus our efforts in the broader movement – moving, most likely, to legislative solutions that would give prosecutors the tools they need to confront Web sites like these in court.

And last, we will need to look at global solutions and cooperation on the issue of sex trafficking on the Internet, and try to forge global consensus via international bodies on combatting trafficking.

Thank you so much for your continued activism on this issue. We couldn’t have done this without each of you, or without our amazing partners at Polaris, Fair Girls,, Shared Hope, Covenant House, Sanctuary for Families, and GEMS.