Mayor to Seattle Weekly Owner: Policies to End Child Sex Trafficking Aren't Working

By Erica C. Barnett May 3, 2012

Mayor Mike McGinn has written a letter to Village Voice Media CEO Jim Larkin expressing concerns about, the VVM-owned classified site that has been implicated in a long string of underage prostitution charges.

In the letter, McGinn noted that the policies VVM claimed they had in place to prevent pimps from trafficking underage prostitutes do not appear to be working; last month, for example, Seattle police rescued a 17-year-old girl who was posting Backpage ads for herself on a public library computer on behalf of her pimp, who remains at large.

Locally, VVM owns Seattle Weekly
, which has staunchly defended its Backpage escort ads.

In a letter to McGinn last year, Backpage vice president Carl Ferrer claimed that the company monitors its own adult classifieds to ensure that none of the escorts advertised are underage; said VVM would implement a new, nationwide age verification system to make sure that none of the prostitutes advertised in its pages are exploited minors; and said the company would work with local law enforcement to identify and crack down on sex trafficking cases involving child victims.

Ferrer's letter, McGinn writes, cavalierly attempts to "explain away the serious problem I have with your business by casually describing the persistence of 'the world's oldest profession.' You are providing marketing services to 'professionals' like the man who was profiting off of the sale of the girl our detectives recovered last month. ...

"The efforts is making to address this problem do not appear to be having an impact on the ease with which its services can be used to exploit children in our city and in cities across America."

Also today, six major companies announced that they would no longer advertise on VVM, including H&M, Pfizer Pharmaceutical, IKEA, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, and the Miami Dolphins football team. Other companies that have pulled their VVM ads include American Airlines, Carnegie Hall, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, and REI.
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