Backpage dot com Complicity

Tony Ortega was a longtime employee and confidant of James Larkin and Michael Lacey.  Ortega was an employee of various New Times publications from 1995 until being promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the Village Voice in approximately March 2007, a position he held until September 2012. He earned this promotion for his vigorous support of Lacey and Larkin in their campaign against the Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. During his tenure at the Village Voice, Tony Ortega was one of the principal apologists for Backpage dot com. Several times he came to the defense publicly of Backpage attacking other journalists, law enforcement and Congress for seeking to get to the bottom of the online sex trade and Backpage’s facilitation of prostitution and human trafficking, as can be seen in the articles summarized below.

In one article dated July 6, 2011, Tony Ortega responded to a CNN report on Backpage dot com, using “junk science” from vested interest groups to make the sex trafficking of underage girls something much less than the national epidemic it is. CNN reporter Amber Lynn personally felt Ortega’s wrath when he attacked her after her exposé of child prostitution and Backpage dot com, aptly entitled “Uncovering America’s Dirty Little Secret.” Ortega wrote: “CNN leads the media’s mass paranoia. She has set out to take down a new target: Village Voice Media.” He criticized the broadcast as a “sensationalistic piece,” that he labeled “manipulative” as well as Lynn’s “involvement in a semireligious crusade.”

In the same article Ortega touted Backpage’s process of screening personal ads for illegal content. This is the same process that the Subcommittee criticized at page 17 of its report as serving “to sanitize the content of innumerable advertisements for illegal transactions—even as Backpage represented to the public and the courts that it merely hosted content created by others.”

June 29, 2001: The Village Voice
Real Men Get Their Facts Straight
By Martin Cizmar, Ellis E. Conklin, Kristen HINMAN
Editor’s note (Tony Ortega): Congress hauled in Craigslist on September 15, 2010. There, feminists, religious zealots, the well-intentioned, law enforcement, and social service bureaucrats pilloried the online classified business for peddling “100,000 to 300,000” underage prostitutes annually. Those same numbers had already inspired terrified politicians, who let loose hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade to prohibitionists bent on ending the world’s oldest profession. The Craigslist beat-down was absurdist theater. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking” culminated with the humbled attorneys from Craigslist announcing that they would close down their adult classified business. The First Amendment was shouted down in the name of children. Village Voice Media watched with more than passing interest. From its earliest days, the Village Voice has run adult classifieds. Today, those classifieds are hosted online at Backpage.com. Having run off Craigslist, reformers, the devout, and the government-funded have turned their guns upon Village Voice Media. Solicited by advocates, such websites as Huffington Post and The Daily Beast and others in the mainstream media raised the alarm that America’s children have been enslaved in prostitution, thanks to the Internet. It is true that Village Voice Media has a stake in this discussion. But the facts speak for themselves.

June 30, 2011: The Awl
The ‘Village Voice’ Prepares for Strike While Ashton Kutcher Rages
By Myles Tanzer
At midnight, the three-year contract at the Village Voice expires, so Voice workers held a strike. Voice staffers and their friends, as well as a handful of former Voice employees there to show their support. In March, Nick Pinto wrote the nationally printed and murky Voice cover story “Women’s Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science.” The story defends Village Voice Media’s ownership of the classified site Backpage.com. Backpage.com allows “adult ads” to be posted; last year a 15 year old sex trafficking victim sued VVM for aiding and abetting prostitution.
Reply Village Voice
Meanwhile, Voice editor tony Ortega took the time to joke about the union negotiations. Going back into negotiation soon. Gotta be quicker with my jabs and uppercuts. Didn’t know Hoberman could move that fast.
Tony Ortega Voice

July 6, 2011: The Village Voice
CNN’S Amber Lyon Ambushed Craigslist – But She Won’t Talk to The Village Voice
By Tony Ortega
The average number of actual under age arrests annually for prostitution in 37 cities across the United States is 827. In cities across America, we are told over and over, like a mantra, that “100,000 to 300,000 underage sex slaves have been stashed away from public view, with more joining them every day. Amber Lyon reporter for CNN, is best known for ambushing Craigslists founder Craig last year, questioning him about what was known as “Adult ads.” At the time, Craigslist was heavy with such ads. Under pressure by the attorney general of several states and further pressure of congressional hearings about its sex ads, Craigslist dropped its adult sections last fall. Seven years ago, the people that I work for were smart enough to staff Backpage.com, a competitor to Craigslist. Backpage.com has since inherited some of the adult business that left Craigslist. The Village Voice itself has been taking such ads since the mid-1970’s. In the1980s and 1990s the adult business was a large part of the paper. The Voice’s website has no adult advertising–that business appears only at Backpage.com. It’s a place where adults can post notices so that other adults can contact them. Backpage’s 123 employees who screen about 20, 000 ads a day, alert NCMEC when they find something suspicious, who in turn contacts law enforcement. In December, we sent information to CNN about what we’re doing to keep Backpage.com’s adult pages for adults only. We point out to CNN that we had, provided Lyon with a two page, single spaced data sheet about what we’re doing to keep underage users out of Backpage.com’s adult page.

July 6, 2011: The Daily Beast
Sex Trafficking Feud
By Michelle Goldberg
The Village Voice, which has been accused of profiting from underage sex trafficking, is out to prove that underage sex trafficking barely exists. “I remember the last couple of mass panics. Do you? wrote Tony Ortega, the paper’s editor in chief. As the Village Voice freely admits, it has a vested interest in this debate. Village voice Media owns Backpage.com, a major adult-services classified website. Until last year, the site was send only to Craigslist in the sex-ads business. Activists accused both sites of enabling the trafficking of underage girls, and under pressure, Craigslist shuttered its erotic-services section, making Backpage even more lucrative. According to the consulting firm Advanced Interactive Media Group, “Backpge.com’s revue from online prostitution ads is 23 U.S. cities increased 15.3% to at least $1,671,685 in September compared to August. Since then, activists have been calling Village Voice Media to shut down Backpage’s sex ads. A Missouri teenager filed a lawsuit against Village Voice Media for aiding and abetting her pimp, who used Backpage.com to sell her for $100 per sex act when she was 14.

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