Reaping What They Sowed: Ortega, Village Voice and The Backpage Conspirators

When Craigslist closed its “adult” section, Backpage became the go-to online spot for illegal sex listings. Its presence grew to be ubiquitous across the United States, making it the target of numerous law enforcement and attorneys general. 

Despite Tony Ortega’s whining to contrary. 

Despite his list of deceptive excuses as long as your arm. 

Despite the loss of revenue to his friends, measured in the hundreds of millions.

Like all clear-thinking, compassionate citizens we hope to curtail the practice of underage sex trafficking and coercive sex slavery. Last week we wrote to you about new initiatives afoot in the FCC which would make websites accountable for the listings on their pages, with an eye toward eradicating the listing of sex trafficking services and curtailing the ability of the egregious hate-speech enthusiasts like Tony Ortega from spreading their vitriolic intolerance.  

As we discussed, Congress wrote the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to prevent a blanket liability traps from hindering normal communication and commerce on the Internet. As Congress originally conceived the Act, they determined that a ‘free and open Internet’ required that the host of a site not be responsible for “third-party generated content.”

Today’s world with its increasing fractiousness and rising hateful intolerance, however, is a very different place.

Ultimately, we firmly believe that ending the sex trafficking of minors and stopping online bigots from injecting the venom of their hatred into public discourse is more important than corporate bottom-lines or rights of Internet trolls like Tony Ortega and his underhanded wife Arielle Silverstein. 

We have shown you how Tony Ortega used his position at the Village Voice Media to try and cast prior proposed changes to the law as thinly-veiled attempts to paralyze the Internet and stifle First Amendment Rights. In this we believe we have demonstrated conclusively that Ortega’s efforts to do so were faithless, self-serving, and dismissive of the many victims of his rhetoric. 

Backpage’s own shameful history, its inability to find a business model that doesn’t depend on the adult sex industry, and the slew of state and federal charges it now faces only underline our conclusions. 

Craigslist voluntarily removed its own “adult” section when the arguments for maintaining it just became untenable. By contrast, Tony Ortega, The Village Voice and its parent company Village Voice Media chose to defend the indefensible — and in so doing became the gleeful beneficiaries of illicit sex-trafficking content. 

Now Backpage and its accomplices are being called to account. 

And it is their own fault they find themselves reaping what they sowed. 

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