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Tony Ortega – Backpage Boy

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Ashton Kutcher Twitter Debate with Tony Ortega

In September of 2010 actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, co-founders of the DNA Foundation, launched the “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign in New York. The campaign’s aim was to raise awareness around the problem of child sex slavery.”

CNN’s three-time Emmy Award winner, Amber Lyon, co-produced an hour-long documentary entitled “Selling the Girl Next Door” which aired on February 19, 2011. The documentary detailed how Village Voice Media allows the use of its website, Backpage.com, for child sex trafficking. The broadcast gave viewers a raw view into the disturbing world of underage American girls caught up in the violent sex trade. Jim Larkin, the president of Village Voice Media refused to talk to Lynn.

AAN@altweeklies on Twitter said:

"Must read from VVM - Women's Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science - http://bit.ly/i9gCOL" 

On June 29 2011, Editor in Chief, Tony Ortega published an article entitled Real Men Get Their Facts Straight on his website, the Village Voice. It criticized Kutcher as “an ill-informed advocate”. The 4,000 plus word piece, written by Martin Cizmar, Ellis Conklin and Kristen Hinman, (none of whom now work for Village Voice Media), ran in all of the thirteen Village Voice Media papers, but was available on the net only at Ortega’s website. The article attacked the statistics Kutcher used, calling a scientific study on underage-prostitition “anything but scientific”. According to the article, Village Voice Media found only 827 arrests per year for child prostitution.

Tony Ortega, editor in chief of the Village Voice, put Lynn in his crosshairs as his first target in defending his company’s child sex trafficking ad business, Backpage. For months, Ortega worked on a response to CNN’s Lynn. His first action – tweeting to Lyon:

"Hey, @AmberLyon, just left a message for you at CNN. Please e-mail me. I want to ask you some questions about your reporting."

Ashton Kutcher tweeted:

"hey @villagevoice hows the lawsuit from the 15 year old victim who alleges you helped enslave them going?"

"Hey @villagevoice speaking of data, maybe you can help me... How much $ did your "escorts" in you classifieds on backpage make last year?"

"Hey @villagevoice speaking of Data... How many of your girls selling themselves in your classifieds are you doing age verification on?"

"Hey @villagevoice Find another way to justify that YOUR property facilitates the sale of HUMAN BEINGS"

"Hey @villagevoice if you ever want 2 have a productive conversation about how 2 end human trafficking as oppose to belittling my efforts lmk"

"hey @villagevoice if you want to dispute the online data I've collected about the consumption of child porn or the hard facts from NCMEC lmk"

"Hey @villagevoice you keep collecting the check from Selling Girls on Backpage and leave helping them to people who give a F**k"

"Hey @villagevoice I'm just getting started!!!!!!!! BTW I only PLAYED stupid on TV."

"No Response @villagevoice ? Oh I forgot U work business hrs. Maybe that's Y you sell girls on ur platform. they tend 2work the night shift."

"Hey @villagevoice REAL MEN DON'T BUY GIRLS and REAL NEWS PUBLICATIONS DON'T SELL THEM"

"Hey @villagevoice why didn't you interview this girl for your article? mediapost.com/publications/i…"

Village Voice tweeted:

"Wow, @aplusk having a Twitter meltdown! Hey Ashton, which part this story is inaccurate? http://tinyurl.com/3nme6l8"

Tony Ortega tweeted;

"Reporters trying to reach me: In union talks today. Have my own column about trafficking in next paper. Keeping my powder dry until then."

Village Voice tweeted:

"OK @aplusk, we’ll bite. Tell us the hard facts you have collected. We'll fact-check for you."

"Where's your fight now, @aplusk? Did you sleep in, or are you just tuckered out from last night's Twitter tirade?"

"If @aplusk is a "real man" and wants to help solve the problem, he'll retweet this: http://tinyurl.com/3mt7w3y"

"@aplusk Don’t spout phony statistics which are then used to justify millions in spending for "awareness." Victims need beds and counseling."

Ashton Kutcher tweeted:

"fact: The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline has received nearly 1,500 calls this month alone"

"fact: Since Jan, 1.9 million people have searched for terms on the NCMEC watch list, “kiddy sex,” “child rape,” “little girls nude.”"

"fact: In the US, children as young as FIVE YEARS OLD have been sold for sex.  bit.ly/cFSKKU"

"fact: news outlets who have financial interest in trafficking may have interest in applying bias to facts to secure their revenue"

Village Voice tweeted:

"@aplusk Bias? Why would police departments across the country have a bias to downplay their arrest data on underage prostitution?"

Ashton Kutcher tweeted:

"The @dnafoundation is working hard to put and end to this horrifying reality. We appreciate ur support http://on.fb.me/eU6lz0"

Village Voice tweeted:

"@aplusk During a mass panic you would expect hotline calls or 'net searches. But where are the 300,000 victims? Police find only 800/year."

"@aplusk Is money for "awareness" programs that whip up fervor over mythical numbers really better than actual treatment for homeless teens?"

"@aplusk Do cops find every prostitute? Of course not. But good public policy is based on hard data like arrests, not myth by activists"

"@aplusk Which sounds more plausible: A limited but persistent problem whose underlying causes are homelessness and drug use..."

"@aplusk ...or invisible sex slaves in Third World proportions somehow stashed around the country by networks of cyber-pimps?"

"Here's why @aplusk's mythical sex slave numbers matter: activists use them to target legal adult freedoms, not underlying teen problems."

"Hm. @aplusk chided us for not answering him last night at 3 am. Taking a Hollywood nap, Ashton? See ya later when the energy bar kicks in?"

"@aplusk Still sleeping? How about you wake up and help us convince Congress to spend money on treatment of real teen problems, not hype."

"@aplusk Thanks in part to you, while Congress spends millions to hype mythical numbers, actual causes and treatment go unaddressed."

"@aplusk What makes more sense, spending to treat teen problems, or targeting of legal adult freedoms?"

Tony Ortega tweeted:

"For this week's Village Voice, I wrote about adult ads. The column does not mention a certain That 70's Show actor. http://bit.ly/qsyT4u"

On Jul 6 2011, Five months after Amber Lyon’s CNN’s Backpage expose aired, Ortega reacted with a Village Voice article featuring scantily clad silhouetted images subtitled; CNN leads the media’s mass paranoia over a nonexistent epidemic. Orega said those opposing Backpage are a small group of political activists who want to “put us out of business”

Ortega said that the statistics on child trafficking are “guesses by activist professors, junk science by nonprofit groups trying to extract money from Congress, and manipulation by religious groups hiding their real agendas about sex work” and “a flimsy study by a couple of activist professors.”

Ortega called Lyon the “young CNN reporter Amber Lyon”. He said that Lyon has “set out to take down Village Voice Media”, that Lyon’s reporting is “manipulative”, “less interested in learning how Backpage.com actually operates than she is in making viewers squirm about sex” and that “Lynn declined a request for an interview about her involvement in a semireligious crusade”. Ortega said that Lyon “prepared a sensationalistic piece” and “she wanted us to appear responsible”.

Ortega said that underage prostitution is “far from a widespread and rapidly growing problem and is instead a small problem”.

Tony Ortega tweeted: 

"Our protesters are hearing a speech that equates pornography with the lynching of black folks. Hm."

"About 50 hardy protesters in the rain. I salute their sand. But the chants about "women"? Um, did someone forget the program?"

"Where's my Honorable Mention for breaking up Demi and @aplusk by destroying him in that Twitter war? "

Trey Garrison tweeted:

"@EricCeleste @NickKristof Can we stop calling adult women who choose to be prostitutes "sex trafficking?"

Nicholas Kristof tweeted:

"@TreyGarrison The problem isn't adults who choose prostitution. The problem is underage girls, or women controlled by pimps."

Village Voice tweeted:

"What Nick Kristof Got Wrong: Village Voice Media Responds bit.ly/GDp8jN"

Tony Ortega tweeted:

"Nick Kristof's column about 'Alissa' being sold on Backpage at 16 was harrowing. Turns out it isn't true, however. bit.ly/GDp8jM"

"@NickKristof I just sent you a question by e-mail. Want to make sure that you got it. Tony Ortega -- Village Voice"

Amber Lyon tweeted:

"From NYTimes: U.S. girl sold as sex slave on Backpage.com nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opi…"

Tony Ortega tweeted:

"Look at Kristof's column. He never says the woman was actually sold on Backpage. Because, well, she wasn't. But is that the impression?"

"Doing the math, girl Kristof writes about was pimped out in 2004-2005 -- before VVM existed, and before Backpage was in New York. Hm."

"Voice has had adult ads since mid-70s. In recent years, we're spending millions to keep underaged out. So ask yourself, why now the crusade?"

Los Angeles Times
November 28, 2011
Village Voice Media defends its backpage.com ad policy
By James Rainey
Mary Ann Finn, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University and Ric Curtis, chair of the Anthropology Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York said they thought the stories had added their own confusion to the issue. The two academics said the problem was how the alternative papers harped on arrest statistics — just 827 for child prostitution nationally over the most recent decade. “It significantly undercounts the problem when you just talk about the arrests,”
Finn said, something she thought Village Voice did not make clear. Finn said that Village Voice has “a vested interest in minimizing the problem.

Tony Ortega tweeted:

"Already claimed credit 4 busting up Tomkat. Might as well for Ashton/Demi, too. He wasn't the same after tangling w/ me in that Twitter war"

"@lindasusername Refs to women give away the real agenda: anti-pornography, anti-sex religious groups using underage "trafficking" as a wedge"

"CNN just attributed to "US Govt" the activist hype that there are 300,000 underage "sex slaves" in the US. More panic w/o evidence from CNN."

"Village Voice Media responds to today's full-page NYT ad placed by clergy: bit.ly/vkPzmT"

Daily Titan
Protests against sex trafficking
By Jessica Rubio
October 10, 2011
More than 15 protesters stood outside the Golleher Alumni House Thursday night chanting “No sex trafficking” in light of a speaker who was invited by two Cal State Fullerton alumni chapters.

CSUF’s College of Communications Alumni Chapter and the Hispanic/Latino Alumni Chapter hosted the OC-NYC Alumni Event at the Golleher Alumni House to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, featuring Tony Ortega, editor in chief of Village Voice, a weekly newspaper based in New York.

The protesters say Ortega is affiliated with BackPage.com, which they say is being used for human trafficking, prostitution and child prostitution. BackPage.com is a free classified advertisement website owned by Village Voice Media, which also owns Village Voice and other media publications. BackPage ads can also be found on the front page of VillageVoice.com…

“I love protests and I’m actually feeling kind of honored that they are protesting me even if they don’t really understand what is going on,” said Ortega. “But I am glad that you were able to get past the barricades and come to this wonderful party.”

Tony Ortega on Facebook:

"It was time for me to say my little spiel, thanking the Alumni Association. What few protesters remained across the street tried to drown me out with a chant. Didn't really work, but I give them points for trying."

"Looks like it's dwindling a bit out there, while the party inside is picking up. Seeing some old friends -- former students and faculty. Having a great time."

"up to about 20 protesters now. The alumni association went all out for the event, I have to say. They've done their best to turn the hall here into a NYC lounge. They're serving pizza, of course, and they even have a "cash cab" parked at the entrance. Just got my picture taken for the student newspaper. Oh, I can just hear the picketers picking up a chant. I'm going to get closer to see if I can hear what they're saying."

"Almost 6 pm here. I'm at the venue, a lovely historic house on the edge of the Cal State Fullerton campus. It's called the Golleher House, for what it's worth. The event is supposed to begin in about a half hour. Across the street, I can see about fifteen protesters holding signs. I'm too far awayh to see what is written on the signs. I'm told that a couple of campus groups have joined the protest. Well, good for them. They are well-intentioned folks, if nothing else. And I love a good protest. Never had one aimed at me before, though."

Tony Ortega tweeted:

"Mass panic reaches new heights w/Newsweek equating looking at porn with trafficking. Savage, how about addressing this nu prohibition mvmnt?"

"SFist, the SF version of NY's Gothamist, referred to my story about CNN reporter Amber Lyon, but called her Amber Lynn. Perverts."

Village Voice tweeted:

"@aplusk Thanks in part to you, while Congress spends millions to hype mythical numbers, actual causes and treatment go unaddressed."

Tony Ortega tweeted:

"@JessicaMinhas I tweeted this earlier: Have my own column about trafficking in next paper. Keeping my powder dry until then."

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