Backpage.com: Backdoor for Sex Trafficking?

This analysis examines the media coverage of the uncovered sex trafficking rings that use Backpage.com to advertise their escort services.

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  1. Backpage.com is a website, like Craigslist, that allows individuals to post ads in online classifieds. You can sell your couch, find your lost dog, or rent an apartment. Recently it has been uncovered as a possible means for sex traffickers to post ads, some of which include minors. One man from New Jersey was arrested on charges of trafficking women, as young as 17, all over the country using Backpage.com as one of his vehicles. The opinions of the event vary in that some people are outraged that websites allow for this type of advertising and others conclude that the website is not to blame for the unfortunate series of events. Either way, sex trafficking is a serious matter that affects many women and should be prevented whenever possible. Many of the women who are sold as sex slaves are poor and have been either physically or mentally coerced into the trade and once they realize the full extent of their situation, are unable to get out. This could be due to the inability to support themselves financially, fear of their pimp, or the effects of years of mental abuse that leaves them unable to function by themselves. This is a newsworthy subject because it could be happening in an city, but it is difficult to detect to those who are unfamiliar with the issue. This article provides a general description of an event involving the use of Backpage for sex trafficking purposes originally published by the Associated Press. 
  2. Nick Kristof of The New York Times wrote an op-ed piece about a woman who claimed that she was sold on Backpage.com. His piece attracted lots of backlash and flak from supporters of Backpage and also skeptics that thought he was just attacking a website when the issue of sex trafficking itself was much bigger. Perhaps this could have something to do with Herman and Chomsky's first propaganda model filter involving ownership of media seeing as The New York Times and The Village Voice are rival media sources. The third filter, the reliance of media on information provided by the government is also addressed in Kristof's article when he states that the National Association of Attorneys General calls Backpage the number one website for human trafficking and are calling for it to crack down on human trafficking by shutting down its escort services. 
  3. This opinion piece is actually written by The Village Voice, the company that owns Backpage.com, about the issue involving their company. This is a conflict of interests piece and it doesn't even do a good job as most of it is simply ranting against those who oppose the use of Backpage for sex trafficking advertisements. 
  4. The flak that Kristof's article received could have a negative effect on his popularity. Backpage is website that many people have used and had great results from and some view his opinion piece as an unsupported attack on the website. 
  5. This is another piece written by an employee of The Village Voice. Knowing that she is writing about the company she works for, it seems to be a PR piece for them as she explains all the good they are doing and how much work they put towards stopping trafficking. McDougall's defending argument for Backpage is that we need to let pimps use their website to post trafficking ads in order to find them, or else they will just find other ways to advertise. Of course she wouldn't say that we need to shut down the adult services section of Backpage!
  6. Backpage defends sexy ads
  7. This video is from an interview with Anderson Cooper in which the representative from Village Voice Media defends Backpage.com as a public site that allows users to post ads within the law, while Anderson challenges his definition of the law when posts of prostitution are allowed, yet prostitution is illegal. 
  8. This blog post does an interesting job of bringing to light the fact that the previous article is written by an employee of the Backpage company and that they are trying to salvage their reputation by tricking readers into thinking that they are the good guys. The statements made in this blog post completely disrepute McDougall and her opinion piece in The Seattle Times. McDougall claims that she wanted to work for Village Voice Media because they are such a sparkling, responsible company. This blog post however, writes that she was hired to defend them in the sex trafficking scandal because she also defended Craigslist in a child sex trafficking scandal. This information brings a whole new lights to McDougall's opinion piece.

    Vafa also goes into detail about the large amount of revenue that Backpage gets from its online prostitution ads. This ties in with the second propaganda filter, advertisement as the primary source of income. If Backpage were to shut down its adult services section, it would lose all the revenue that it gets from sex ads.   
  9. Unfortunately for Village Voice, many advertisers pulled their ads once they heard about the scandal. Much of the revenue Backpage receives is from sex ads but is it enough for the company to survive on if large companies like Starbucks and Best Buy pull their ads in protest?
  10. This on the other hand, does do a good job of somewhat defending Backpage. Carr tries to show both sides to the story. He first gives background of the event. He then explains why many people are in favor of Backpage shutting down its adult services section but also does a good job explaining that Backpage provides a place for free press but that every once in a while, individuals will take advantage of that. Carr raises an important question, is it really Backpage's fault that one morally corrupt individual abused its services? This opinion piece is unique because it shows both sides of the argument, which is rare to see in news coverage. 
  11. This report explains that mayors from cities around the country are asking Backpage to implement a stricter policy of placing ads, instead of shutting down the ad service altogether. 
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