An alert FrontBurnervian points us to a Nicholas Kristof piece titled “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods” that ran in the New York Times over the weekend. In it, he takes Phoenix-based Village Voice Media, owner of the Dallas Observer, to task for running an online classified service that profits, in part, from human trafficking. The controversy isn’t new. Village Voice Media has been dealing with backlash over its Backpage.com for quite awhile. Says Kristof:
Backpage accounts for about 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five Web sites that carry such ads in the United States, earning more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a media research and consulting company. It is now the premier Web site for human trafficking in the United States, according to the National Association of Attorneys General.
Village Voice Media is in a real fix here. That’s a good chunk of change it makes with the site (though I do wonder whether that $22 million figure is an accurate breakout of prostitution ads; I suspect that’s what the site makes across all classified categories). And they do claim to police advertisers as best they can. But their efforts clearly haven’t put an end to pimps using Backpage.com to conduct their business. So what’s the acceptable rate? If half the adult ads on Backpage.com were placed by pimps, that would be too many. Right? Even Village Voice Media would certainly agree. Is 15 percent acceptable? Ten? Five? I wonder what number Jim Schutze thinks is acceptable.