McGinn has accused the alt-weekly of promoting child prostitution through its affiliated classified site, Backpage.com.
Today's winner: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn
McGinn, who asked representatives from Village Voice Media, the Weekly's corporate owner, the Weekly, and Backpage.com to stop running escort ads until they can ensure that they aren't promoting child prostitution last week , argued on the radio this morning that Backpage.com had no system in place to keep pimps from exploiting child prostitutes on the site. "This is not a minor problem. This is a serious problem," McGinn said.
Responding to McGinn's call for Backpage.com to require escorts to provide ID showing they're 18 or older in person, rather than simply asking them to click a box saying they're 18 or older on the site, Seely said that would be "logistically" impossible. Comparing Backpage to sites like Naughty Northwest, the Stranger's online escort page, is "like comparing a freight train to a tricycle. It's a much larger operation," with ads in dozens of cities throughout the US and Canada, Seely argued.
McGinn also took on several recent stories in the paper (and throughout the national VVM chain) that argued the problem of child prostitution is overblown---a claim Seely defended vehemently, arguing that "when you overstate the problem, money and attention and heat goes to the issue [and] other very worthy causes end up getting short shrift." Asked by host Steve Scher what worthy causes he was referring to, Seely responded, "I don't know what [causes] off the top of my head, but there are certainly issues that are worth their fair share of attention instead of focusing on this problem.[pullquote]I don't really think we're in the business of trying to promote fencing operations for the sale of stolen goods so that it makes it easier to attract burglars, nor do I think we open up other kinds of illegal operations to attract criminals. —Mayor Mike McGinn[/pullquote]
"There's a kind of minimization of the problem that we've seen," McGinn responded. "This idea that we're overstating the problem---we have 185 active case files here, human services files of underage sex trafficking of children being brought into prostitution against their will [between 2010 and 2011]. It's not a small problem, it's not a rare problem, and the idea that the real problem is that we're not getting the numbers right is a red herring. The real issue is, what can we do to stop it, and that's where we need Village Voice and Seattle Weekly and Backpage.com to step up to the plate and figure out how to do it."
Today's loser: Seattle Weekly
As if he wasn't in deep enough, Seely kept digging, likening Backpage.com to a bowl of fruit that attracts fruit flies (i.e., pimps who exploit children). Better to attract the flies to one place, Seely argued, than go around trying to eradicate them one by one. "Prostitution is the world's oldest profession for a reason. If you've got Backpage.com cooperating with law enforcement, you're a lot better off and the problem will get eradicated a lot more quickly."
McGinn's withering response: "I don't really think we're in the business of trying to promote fencing operations for the sale of stolen goods so that it makes it easier to attract burglars, nor do I think we open up other kinds of illegal operations to attract criminals. Our duty is to work to stop" child prostitution, not draw pimps to a particular web site.