Nothing gets New Yorkers attention like a good sex scandal. Client #9, the Mayflower Madam, and now the UES Millionaire Madam are tabloid fodder. But cyber-bordellos, disguised as online adult services, but trafficking underage teens are generating news, too.
There are men and women who are mercilessly exploiting teenagers and children for the pleasures of others. And among those who willingly abet that trade, we find Village Voice Media, owners of Backpage.com, which facilitates pimps trafficking underage girls for sex.
Philip Markoff, the Craigslist killer, was a promising medical student and devoted fiancé by day and a victimizer of hookers by night. After being indicted for killing one of the women he met on Craigslist, Markoff committed suicide in a Boston jail while awaiting trial.
On Long Island, four of the ten bodies found near Gilgo Beach were identified as missing prostitutes who advertised on Craigslist.
VVM claims that Backpage.com maintains a working relationship with law enforcement in “a concerted effort to protect underage kids from predators.” They insist that Backpage spends millions of dollars to protect children from sex traffickers who misuse their adult site.
The Brooklyn D.A. has identified Backpage.com as a site frequented by pimps to traffic their girls. Pimps no longer ply their illicit trade from their cars or stools at coffee shops. Cyberspace is the new “Amistad.”
Libertarians and free speech advocates seem to be the only ones opposing government crackdowns on shadowy prostitution services masquerading as dating, massage or escort services. VVM defends selling adult sex on Backpage.
According to the authors of Superfreakonomics, birth control and the sexual revolution were bad for the prostitution business. Commercial sex, however, still exists because unmet needs remain.
This issue is a matter of what’s legal versus what’s morally just. The VVM has a First Amendment right to publish any material they wish in print or on the Internet. But is it morally just and responsible for them to aid and abet sex trafficking whether or not underage children are involved?
Chattel slavery was once a legally protected and highly profitable enterprise in the United States and elsewhere. But over the objections of the slaveholders, that which was morally just and responsible prevailed. We don’t propose resorting to armed violence to suppress sex trafficking on Backpage and elsewhere in cyberspace.
The use of non-violent pressure tactics should be used against the VVM and other purveyors of cybersex services. Craigslist discontinued their adult services after public outcry and law enforcement pressure.
Protecting the rights of exploited and coerced teenagers is not censorship. The online exploitation and coercion of young males, women and girls into the sex trade must not be tolerated.
Village Voice Media should be “runnin’ scared” now that lawmakers, celebrities, clergy, law enforcement and the public are determined to run pimps and their corporate abettors out of cyberspace.
They and other online purveyors of the underage sex trade must be held responsible and accountable.