It seems religious organizations aren’t the only ones offended by sex ads. The New York Times is reporting that a group of high-profile musical artists have joined the campaign to pressure Village Voice Media to shut down the adult ad section of its online classified website Backpage.com. Among the bands and artists who have signed a recent petition are: Alicia Keys, Talib Kweli, Rosanne Cash, The Civil Wars, and members of Alabama Shakes, Drive-By Truckers, Pearl Jam and R.E.M., among others.
Former R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, one of the more vocal artists speaking out, released a statement:
Village Voice Media has a history of being a strong advocate for the arts, reporting extensively on musicians and their work in its 13 weeklies across the country. That musicians are now speaking out against Village Voice Media’s refusal to take down the Adult section of Backpage.com where pimps advertise the sale of girls for sex is significant and should send a clear message to the company that it needs to take action to ensure no child is sexually exploited through use of its site.
The issue at stake is the safety of minors. The adults only section of the site contains advertisements for escort services, strip clubs and other sex industry services. In several instances in recent memory, it has been discovered that sex traffickers have used Backpage ads to promote the exploitation of underage children (including selling them for sex), leading to several arrests in separate instances in the U.S. There is a growing belief that safeguards allegedly set in place would not be enough to prevent continued promotion of the child sex trade.
Village Voice Media, who owns and publishes 13 different local media outlets such as Westword, New York Village Voice, Seattle Weekly and Dallas Observer, has been under fire for months to shut down the adult section of their site, not only from hundreds of religious leaders, but also from every one of the attorneys general in the United States, as well as major corporations like American Airlines which have removed their advertising from Village Voice publications. As of yet, Village Voice has still not budged.
Additionally, over 230,000 individuals so far have signed an online petition hosted on change.org, calling on owner Mike Larkin and the Village Voice Board of Directors to reconsider their policies. One key line of the petition reads as follows:
By Village Voice Media’s own admission, additional safeguards are unlikely to entirely end the practice of minors being sold on the site. For us, one child sold for sex is one too many.
To sign the petition, go to change.org.
Photo credit: Andrew D. Hurley/Flickr