A group of leading musicians announced their support today for a campaign calling on Village Voice Media to shut down the Adult section of its Web site Backpage.com where children and teens have been advertised by others for commercial sex.
Members of the bands Alabama Shakes, Dead Confederate, Drive-By-Truckers, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., The Civil Wars, The Roots, The Minus Five, and The Posies, and as well as singers Alicia Keys, Daniel Bedingfield, Ken Stringfellow, Lera Lynn, Rosanne Cash, Scott McCaughey, and Talib Kweli have added their names to a growing list of individuals demanding Village Voice Media cease publishing advertisements of minors for sex.
"Village Voice Media has a history of being a strong advocate for the arts, reporting extensively on musicians and their work in its 13 weeklies across the country. That musicians are now speaking out against Village Voice Media’s refusal to take down the Adult section of Backpage.com where pimps advertise the sale of girls for sex is significant and 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," said Mike Mills, bassist, keyboardist, and singer for Grammy Award-winning rock band R.E.M.
“The Adult section of Backpage.com provides a space for pimps to advertise the sale of minors for sex and johns to prey on children. It's time to shut it down. Once the majority of Americans have fully connected with this terrifying and growing trend in their own backyards, the anti-trafficking movement can gain significant momentum. The effort to put an end to Backpage’s Adult ads is a first step in what needs to be a monumental effort,” said singer/songwriter and human trafficking advocate Daniel Bedingfield. In 2006, Bedingfield launched STOP THE TRAFFIK, a global coalition to combat human trafficking around the world, with a particular focus on children on young people.
The chorus of calls for Village Voice Media to shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com, which services nearly 400 markets, has been mounting since last August when 51 of the nation’s attorneys general called on Village Voice Media to close the section. Today, 600 faith leaders from different religious traditions, 53 leading anti-trafficking experts and organizations, 19 U.S. Senators, state and city lawmakers around the country, and over 225,000 citizens who have signed a petition on Change.org have called on VVM to exit the adult ad business.
Last week, Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Seminary and convener of the clergy coalition, and four U.S. Senators launched separate campaigns to educate the top advertisers in Village Voice Media’s publications about the sex trafficking controversy surrounding Backpage.com. Several national brands, including AT&T, American Airlines, and REI, have decided to cease advertising with VVM. Additionally, at least two firms with investments in the privately-owned Village Voice Media – Goldman Sachs and Trimaran Capital – have pulled out of VVM, citing discomfort with the direction of the company.
This past Tuesday, ABC’s Nightlinedid a story on Backpage.com that featured interviews with a former teenage sex trafficking survivor and Village Voice Media counsel Elizabeth McDougall.