Nicholas Kristof is something of an expert on sex trafficking. The Pulitzer Prize journalist has covered the issue extensively in both his reporting and his book Half the Sky: From Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide. So his criticism of Village Voice Media for aiding human traffickers through their Backpage.com sex ads has a special resonance.
It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.
Lauren Hersh, the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there, says that of the 32 people she and her team have prosecuted in the last year and a half — typically involving victims aged 12 to 25 — a vast majority of the cases included girls marketed through Backpage ads.
“Pimps are turning to the Internet,” said Hersh. “They’re not putting the girls on the street so much. Backpage is a great vehicle for pimps trying to sell girls.”
Kristof is not the first to call for closure of the adult section of Backpage.com. Clergy, attorneys general, celebrity activists like Ashton Kutcher, even the son of Village Voice founder Norman Mailer have been vocal opponents of the site.
The alternative newspaper chain has in the past responded by downplaying the prevalence of underage sex trafficking, while completely ignoring the issue of adult victims of sex trafficking. They’ll no doubt dismiss or ignore this latest criticism. But as the chorus of voices calling for an end to the sex ads grows stronger, it may be harder for readers to do the same.