Sunday, September 26, 2010

Westword Parent Company Sued For Trafficking

Trafficking in prostituted women through the Westword's "sex" ads supports the salaries of editor Patty Calhoun and blogger Michael Roberts, both of who I'd pay good money to see standing in the unemployment line. Time to put an end to the rape-financed, paycheck journalism that has left Calhoun and Roberts on the shelf way past their sell-by date.

Here's hoping the lawsuit will be the final nail in the coffin of all the drug and women trafficking creeps working for the sleazy Westword.

Follow the Rocky to annihilation, losers! I heart pink slip porn.

Westword parent sued

Village Voice Media is battling a lawsuit that alleges it had a role in a child prostitution case

Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010

The parent company of Denver-based Westword is battling a lawsuit that alleges that the media giant had a role in a sex trafficking case involving a former runaway teen prostitute.

Lawyers for the unnamed 15-year-old Missouri teen filed a lawsuit last week against Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC, alleging that the Phoenix-based company aided and abetted a pimp by allowing the pimp to post sex ads for the then-14-year-old girl. The ads were posted on Village Voice Media’s classified advertising Web site Backpage.com.

Village Voice Media owns Westword, which also uses Backpage.com for Denver through Westword.Backpage.com.

The complaint, filed in a Missouri federal court, alleges that Village Voice Media “had knowledge that: explicit sexual photographs were being posted on its website; that postings on their website were advertisements for prostitution services; that minors were included in these postings for prostitution on its website; that sex trafficking of minors was prolific in the United States of America; and that the internet including their service was being used to advertise illegal sexual services, including child exploitation.”

Police and human trafficking experts in Denver say problems with Westword’s Backpage.com is increasing. The Denver Police Department says it is seeing ads for students from low-income and at-risk alternative Denver schools.

DPD spokesman Lt. Matt Murray says the Denver ads are primarily being found through Westword’s Backpage.com.

Murray says Denver investigators are constantly following Westword.Backpage.com to combat growing problems with sex ads featuring minors, as well as prostitution in general. He added that much of the activity is being created by gang members.

“The trend we’re seeing is a lot of gang members are starting to move away from drugs and guns and into this realm, and their targeting at-risk kids from alternative schools,” said Murray. “It’s definitely a problem.”

The Denver Police Department is currently seeking a grant to help it combat human trafficking, including child prostitution, according to Murray. He was not at liberty yesterday to discuss the details of the grant.

Village Voice Media is receiving pressure from 21 state attorneys general to close its adult-services section of Backpage.com. The effort is being led by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Similar pressure was placed on Craigslist earlier this month to shut down its adult-services section. The online classified-advertising Web site voluntarily agreed to close its erotic services section after receiving pressure from the attorneys general.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers did not sign the letters from the attorneys general encouraging Backpage.com and Craigslist to answer the call. But a spokesman for Suthers said the Republican attorney general supports the effort.

“We’re part of a larger group of attorneys general that have been working with Blumenthal … we’ve been working on human trafficking issues that obviously effect all of the states in the nation,” said Mike Saccone, spokesman for Suthers. “We certainly support the efforts of Attorney General Blumenthal and all of our other peer states to combat human trafficking and child prostitution.”

Unlike Craigslist, Village Voice Media executives say they will not shut down its Backpage.com adult-services section, arguing that it has increased its efforts to crack down on the growing problem. The company points to assisting law enforcement officials with investigations and blocking ads featuring prostitution and human trafficking.

But sex ads are big money. Twelve Web sites will generate an estimated $63 million in sex-ad revenue in the U.S. this year, according to a Classified Intelligence Report study by the Advanced Interactive Media Group, LLC. With Craigslist out of the picture, many sites are “jockeying for position to capture the revenue that Craigslist bypassed,” according to the report.

Backpage.com — second to Craigslist in sex ad revenue — is expected to earn about $17.5 million online in sex ads this year, with an additional $6.9 million in print advertising revenue for sex-related services advertising, according to the AIM Group report.

Backpage.com immediately took advantage of Craigslist’s departure from the sex ad market by running an ad for AdultSearch.com, which solicited ads for “escorts” at $5 each, according to the report.

Westword editor Patricia Calhoun said yesterday that she is unable to comment on ad revenue generated from such classified ads in Denver because she does not work directly in the advertising department. Taylor Wheeler, Westword’s classified sales manager, did not return a phone call and separate e-mail by the Denver Daily News yesterday seeking revenue figures for adult entertainment, alternative healing and medical marijuana classified ads.

Calhoun also declined to comment on the specific lawsuit and the pressure from the attorneys general because she was unfamiliar with the case and the letters.

Steve Suskin, an attorney for Village Voice Media, lashed out at attorneys for filing the lawsuit on behalf of the Missouri teen. He said it is ridiculous to allege that Village Voice Media knowingly assisted the pimp, Latasha Jewell McFarland, in posting pornographic photographs of the former teen prostitute as part of the sex ad.

McFarland has since pled guilty to prostitution charges in federal court.

“The lawsuit is riddled with errors,” Suskin said in a statement. “The claim that we knowingly assisted McFarland in committing criminal acts is a lie fabricated by a trial lawyer looking for a payday. The attorney seeks to redirect blame from a convicted predator to Backpage.com, which helped prosecute the criminal.”

Suskin points out that Village Voice Media has testified in five previous underage cases, and provided the FBI with an I.P. address and credit card information in the latest case.

Village Voice Media also includes a disclaimer on its Backpage.com site, asking users to agree that they are 18 years of age or older and do not live in a community or local jurisdiction where nude pictures and explicit adult materials are prohibited. Users are also asked to agree to “report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.”

“Without our knowledge, the predator violated our terms of use,” states Suskin.

Amanda Finger, executive director of the Colorado-based Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, said that while classified sites such as Backpage.com claim to be monitoring illegal activity such as human trafficking, there really isn’t all that much monitoring going on. She said users know this and take advantage of the easy-to-use forum.

“It’s an easy venue that’s a place where people trust the source, they trust the site that they’re going to, and it becomes this normal behavior …” said Finger. “(Classified sites) claim to be working with law enforcement, but those (claims) weren’t substantiated, and they claim to be monitoring, but there was no monitoring.”

Labels: , , , ,

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorta true. The Stranger in Seattle has much better writing than the Westword. It also has high readership and ad placement, and prostitution ad space. Dan Savage is the editor, and this month he's famous for the "It gets better" campaign for oppressed young people. But does it get better? Maybe some field data needs to be gathered regarding future lives of some of the women.

10/12/2010 11:37 AM  
Blogger Fire Witch said...

Well said, Anon.

The most dangerous job in America is prostituted sex worker.

10/22/2010 12:22 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home