Musicians Join Fight Against Village Voice Child Trafficking Ads
More than a dozen prominent pop singers and rock bands have joined a campaign aimed at forcing the Village Voice to stop running ads on Backpage.com for escorts, strip-clubs and other “adult services,” a publicist for the campaign said. The list of bands who have signed a petition against the ads includes the former members of R.E.M and the members of the Roots, Alabama Shakes, the Civil Wars and Drive-By Truckers. Among the singers who have lent their support are Alicia Keys, Rosanne Cash and Talib Kweli.
Village Voice Media, whose 13 weeklies include the Village Voice, Westword and Phoenix New Times, has been under fire for eight months for continuing to run the ads, which critics say lead to the exploitation of minors. Last August the country’s 51 attorneys general sent a letter demanding that the company close down the adults section on its Backpage.com, much of it related to the sex trade.
A coalition of about 600 religious leaders have also gone after the company. The group was organized by Groundswell, an interfaith social justice group sponsored by the Auburn Seminary in New York, which ran a full page ad in The New York Times last year that was signed by clergy from all faiths and cited the arrests of adults who had sold minors for sex using Backpage.com. “It is a basic fact of the moral universe that girls and boys should not be sold for sex,” the ad said.
Since then, a petition against the site started on the Web site Change.org has gathered 225,000 signatures, and several national brands, among them AT&T and American Airlines, have dropped advertising in the media company’s publications.
The musicians who are joining the fray have begun using their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to generate support for the campaign. Mike Mills, the former bassist for R.E.M., said in a statement that the fact that musicians who admire the Voice’s coverage of popular music are complaining “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 principals of Village Voice Media – Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey – have said the company spends millions to reject ads that feature minors and has worked with law enforcement officials and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to make sure the “adult” section only includes adults.