What Nick Kristof Got Wrong: Village Voice Media Responds

Nicholas D. Kristof was wrong about the most devastating 'fact' in his Sunday, March 18th, column in The New York Times regarding Backpage.com.

He wrote about an underage victim of human trafficking: "Alissa says pimps routinely peddled her on Backpage."

A video that accompanied his online op-ed was headlined: "Age 16, She Was Sold on Backpage.com"

That is not true.

According to Alissa's court testimony, she was 16 in 2003. Backpage.com did not exist anywhere in America in 2003.

According to Alissa's court testimony, she left the streets, where she'd been viciously savaged, and came to the FBI's attention in August, 2005. She was quickly relocated away from the corners and hotels she worked in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City, streets where thugs had pimped out the underage victim.

In the summer of 2005 Backpage.com did not exist in Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Atlantic City.

Had Kristof followed any of The New York Times' standards of journalism, he would have known this. He could have read the court transcripts. He could have read the testimony of A.G. (the victim). He could have read the testimony of FBI agent Tamara Harty. He could have Googled the case and read the coverage in The Boston Globe which reported: "Soon after meeting (agent) Harty in 2005, (she) was moved out of state to a home for troubled youth."

Neglecting to do any of the above, Kristof could still have asked us.

Despite extensive correspondence with our attorney, he never mentioned Alissa or sought confirmation about her purported link to Backpage.com at the age of 16.

Instead, he concocted a story to suit his agenda and then asked his readers to boycott Village Voice Media.

When Village Voice Media contacted Kristof last night, he initially speculated that Alissa, subsequent to the events described in his column, returned to prostitution. In her court account, she testified that as an adult, she briefly returned to sex work in Philadelphia in 2006, thought it unsafe and, after a couple of days moved to New Jersey.

Backpage.com did not operate in New Jersey in 2006.

Kristof followed up telling us: "She was sold in many cities besides Boston, all around the country. As I said, I did check and confirm that Backpage operated in at least 11 cities in 2004, and in at least 30 cities by 2005."

Yes, Mr. Kristof, but not in the cities she testified she worked in.

And, more to the point, Backpage.com did not exist in any city when you claimed she was trafficked at the age of 16 on our site.

The brutalization the underage victim suffered on the street was horrific. But that's precisely the point. Alissa escaped the notice of law enforcement as long as she remained on the street. It wasn't until she was stomped by a pack of predators and wound up in the hospital, where she lost the child she was carrying, that she came to the attention of the FBI.

For the first time in the history of sex work, law enforcement has, because of the Internet, the ability to shine a light upon those who would abuse children. With internet records the police can trace runaways and those who would take advantage of them.

Backpage dedicates hundreds of staff to screen adult classifieds in order to keep juveniles off the site and to work proactively with law enforcement in their efforts to locate victims. When the authorities have concerns, we share paperwork and records and help them make cases.

In an evolving discussion, serious researchers argue that the data on the internet is the very best tool to combat trafficking. This emerging work includes the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy study entitled "Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds" as well as analysis at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

As safety standards spread among Internet sites, society needs to address the very real needs of shelter and counseling for children, like Alissa, caught up in human trafficking.

Kristof's uninformed crusade would drive victims back to the shadows, back to the streets that Alissa fled.

 
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110 comments
moneykrap
moneykrap

I think no one is responsable for others behavior. Each people should consider or reconsider each time when they want to do something antisocial, or not such well seen in other people's eyes. Backpage.com fault is just of being one of those sites who is so permitive with adds. They should not allow people to post such easy the posts there. Women are being seen sometimes as goods in other people's eyes, so you need to be very careful when it comes to this kind.

Hallenen
Hallenen

With all due respect, the cold, hard fact remains: kids are routinely peddled on Backpage.com. Doesn't that kind of make you an accessory to rape? Please reconsider what you're doing.

Peter Houlihan
Peter Houlihan

Well said. The Village Voice has been central to showing the harm abolitionists like Kristof do.

Paul A. Friedman
Paul A. Friedman

For those interested in helping to reduce child abuse deaths in America, please go to www.everychildmatters.org. Every Child Matters is a 501(c)(3) child advocacy group based in Washington, DC. ECM is dedicated to making children a national political priority.

Rich Klein
Rich Klein

You say Backpage dedicates hundreds of staff to screen adult classifieds in order to keep juveniles off the site but the following text is form your own "Release" in your Terms of Service under Backpage.com:

You agree that the Site does not pre-screen, monitor or approve any Content, but that the Site shall have the right, but not the obligation to remove, move (including moving an ad or posting to another section or category within the classifieds), refuse, edit or delete any Content for any reason whatsoever

richard
richard

Goldman Sachs and the Village voice just shows us how sleazy business operations hide just underneath our noses. Does the Village Voice that this doesn't go on in thier paper? They say that reporter Kristoff got it wrong but it still goes on. Shame on both institutions, which will never get a cent from me. I will tell all my friends and family to stay clear of both companies.

richard
richard

Village Voice will never get a cent from me and I will circulate to family and friends this story about you sleazes and Goldman also.

Johnny
Johnny

my buddy's mother brought in $15779 the previous week. she makes money on the computer and bought a $490700 condo. All she did was get lucky and put into use the advice given on this web page makecash30............................

Jennifer Williams Pavich
Jennifer Williams Pavich

I am disappointed, although not surprised, that the response to this is to cite a technicality in the court transcript. Obviously, to Village Voice, the important thing is that the victim may have reached age 17 before the publication was used as a tool for abuse, as it so often is.

Backpage has been linked to arrests for criminal underage trafficking in 22 states. They can brag about their vetting process as much as they like, they are obviously profiting from the problem. I plan on contacting advertisers in my local publication to express this opinion.

Shirajum Munir Sumon
Shirajum Munir Sumon

Don’t waste your valuable time just start earning! my roomate's step-sister makes $71/hour on the computer. She has been laid off for seven months but last month her pay was $20492 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site >>> LazyCash37. com

Guest
Guest

You are pure slime. Who should we believe? A man who has risked his life, over, and over all over the world to bring darkness to light and to try to save people's lives, or an outfit that makes its money on porn and prostitution? Man, what a tough call.

Perhaps he made the wrong call on the specifics of this case. That doesn't give you call to attempt to destroy his reputation. Data on the internet is the best way to stop traffickers? Do you mean like the "data"on Craigslist? And if you're going to claim to have "hundreds of people" scouring the ads looking for young girls, at least provide the slightest bit of evidence.

Your game is over - and this amateur hour piece does you nothing but harm.

thomasmatlack
thomasmatlack

"NYT Unknowingly Takes to Task 9/11 Victim" Mr. Kristof throws Alta Communications under the bus along with Goldman. Do you know who happened to invest in the Village Voice for Alta in 2000? Read this: http://bit.ly/Hddy2D Mr. Kristoff owes the family a retractions and one hell of an apology.

Sheldon Ranz
Sheldon Ranz

Kristoff has had another op-ed in today's Times, voguing as an investigative journalist "exposing" investors in Backpage.com. I'm looking forward to VVM's rebuttal.

Bigred420asis
Bigred420asis

Norman Mailer, I hope you read this.You are a greedy, self-absorbed, soulless monster, who only cares about how much money your company makes. I can't believe you support forced prostitution and child sex trafficking. You are the lowliest scum of the earth. If you wanna pull yourself out of the deep hole that you're digging yourself deeper into, then remove anything that you think even remotely comes CLOSE to being a sex trafficking ad.

Sincerely,A random guy.

Lisa Summers
Lisa Summers

Hmmmm. I commented yesterday referencing the change.org petition and it said my comment would need to pass moderator approval. Moderator apparently let cashhuge and work at home slip through, but not my dissenting opinion?Once again:You use the excuse of the transparency of your ads helping investigators/prosecuters, but then don't cite any actual evidence of this. This doesn't exactly look like thorough journalism.Where on an ethics continuum would you place 18 and 19 year olds who are forced/kept in prostitution by abuse and threat of abuse. What age would you see as old enough to choose this life style?

Pnwwriter8
Pnwwriter8

This is horrifying. You are basically defending your right to continue supporting forced prostitution and sexual slavery. Even though what you're profiting from is tragic and a violation of human rights. Is that what the Village Voice now stands for now? I certainly hope not.

Lisa Summers
Lisa Summers

I came to this rebuttle before signing the Change.org petition. Then I looked at Kristoff's response. Now I'm going back to sign the petition.Two things: The claim that your ads create a transparency that enables prosecution of child sex traffickers needs to be backed up with how many cases you have helped out--I bet if this figure was worth sharing, you would have shared it.Secondly, How many 18 and 19 year olds are being trafficked and restrained by abuse or the threat of it? For that matter, what age cut off does your ethics allow you to imagine would make prostitution a life style choice?

Groobiecat
Groobiecat

"Backpage dedicates hundreds of staff to screen adult classifieds in order to keep juveniles off the site and to work proactively with law enforcement in their efforts to locate victims. When the authorities have concerns, we share paperwork and records and help them make cases."

Okay, so, you work with the law to locate victims, but how about locating the perpetrators? How about ensuring that no advertiser is, in fact, involved in the sex trade. How many cases has Village Voice prosecuted? In case you folks were unaware, there's a war going on against women in this country, headed up mainly by the far right. But this is a different front in the war, one in which "progressive" entities such as Village Voice is wittingly or unwittingly playing a part. How about this: *eliminate sex ads altogether.* Craigs List did, and so should you.

Period. End of story.

Aphoenix
Aphoenix

I applaud you, VVM, for your unswerving commitment to keep the adult section of Backpage intact in this irrational battle against you. Trafficked and abused minors will be saved by your efforts, but if you shut the Backpage adult section down, their abuse will continue, unstymied.VVM has the financial clout to crack down on the pimps. When will all journalists and anti-trafficking cohorts see that plain-as-day truth?They need to wake up, and fast.

DB
DB

If backpage wants to keep running these ads it should donate the proceeds to services for domestic minor sex trafficking victims. Then it won't be profiting from their abuse and the money received from the pimps can be channeled positively.

Kevin
Kevin

Doesn't anyone think its strange that no one is mentioning that ALL prostitution is illegal?

http://cashhuge.com
http://cashhuge.com

my classmate's mom brought home $19966 past week. she makes money on the internet and bought a $495600 condo. All she did was get blessed and put in action the guide leaked on that link top of this comment

paul
paul

The classified section of the VV has been shady FOR YEARS

Brendan A. MacWade
Brendan A. MacWade

Nicholas Kristof is a one percenter who gets paid exorbitant sums to give speeches detailing the plight of the world's poor. It's time to put him out of work, permanently.

Viva Kristoff
Viva Kristoff

Imagine someone at the New York Times pursuing an agenda and not letting the facts get in the way... Folks on the left laugh at folks on the right when they point out that the Times has become an agenda driven joke on its op-ed page and in all its political coverage. Unfortunately, the Village Voice only sees fit to object to the Times' agenda when it runs into conflict with the Village Voice's agenda, which happens about as often as a free election in Cuba.

(The Village Voice wishes to point out the historic status of the above entry. Such entry represents the first time the word Cuba has ever appeared in the Village Voice without the reference being to Cuba's "first class medical care")

Raymond Todd
Raymond Todd

What bullshit these Bible-thumpers/haters are spewing! Although an underage prostitute may slip through on Backpage, this is about stopping all smut advertising. And there's much more of it on Google etc; VVM is just an easy target for a drive-by by the sainted Mr. Kristoff. Even the underage ex-whore Kristof dug up turned out to be a fraud. Or rather the great Nick couldn't get his facts straight. Backpage didn't exist except in print in a couple of Florida cities -- not in the northern ones she operated in -- when she was plying her trade. What a colossal boneheaded error! Anybody else would get fired for such a screw-up. This is a moralistic witchhunt by organizations that get paid big bucks to pretend there's a massive underage trafficking problem on Backpage and previously Craigslist. The facts don't support this! Read up on the facts, boneheads! The NYT needs to make sure its columnist can get his shit together.

wlfairman
wlfairman

I am not familiar with this case. But I must say that Kristof is one of the few reporters that puts his boots on the ground, many time in dangerous places, reporting on behavior that most of us would rather avoid. He has my utmost respect.

Hopefully, if he made errors in his reporting, they will be corrected.

Layitonthelineronny
Layitonthelineronny

Oh how I love Progressives and their Comboxers! Lets see: Work in some good old antisemitic Israel bashing under the guise of being against Zionism *check*. Steer away from the topic by diverting attention from the issue with quibbling *check*. Ad hominem in lieu of substance *check*. And if all else fails blame Bush, the GOP, and conservatives *check*. Concern for the Other's voice until it rains on your parade *check*. Oops, I almost forgot: gratuitous cursing and nastiness *check*. Good job "smart set"!

Dave
Dave

Kristof usually saves his best fiction work for his op-eds about Israel.

Erik Baard
Erik Baard

I've written for both the Village Voice and the NY Times. In some ways I'm more proud of my Village Voice writing -- the editors allowed me to be more speculative (and my words were usually borne out), daring, and humorous, and to explore topics in longer form. All the while I was numb to what those racy final pages meant to real lives. I thought they were merely prurient, which is fine by me. Only in recent years have I become aware of the immigration traps, exploitation of children, etc. Part of my freelance wages came through abusive pimping.

Village Voice Media has very little to do with its namesake and flagship. It's based in Arizona and operated as a college town network. The real Village Voice staff was gutted (including fact checking and library departments) and many best practices ended.

I wish the Village Voice had incorporated as a nonprofit, given that it wasn't meant to endorse candidates anyway. It then might have saved itself and ended this dreadful advertising addiction.

That said, the Voice has been bought, knocked down, and resurrected before. I'll hold hope.

Minnesota Reader
Minnesota Reader

Village Voice Media is profiting off of child prostitution. If it were a company like Haliburton that was doing what they are doing on Backpage. Village Voice Media would rip into Haliburton on these pages instead of defending the action. Village Voice Media is great about exposing couruption and low moral standards of companies, except when it's themselves.

Djricha
Djricha

Those responding please fo to Nick Kristoff's blog post on 3/21. He set the record straight. Shame on Village Voice Media for continuing to provide a platforn for selling chidren for sex.

Peter Houlihan
Peter Houlihan

Read the article, she was never trafficked through backpage, at 16 or at any other point. As they pointed out, if she had been, the FBI probably would have found her alot earlier.

"Backpage has been linked to arrests for criminal underage trafficking in 22 states." The law is able to use a company to arrest criminals they previously had no access to... and you complain about this?

Peter Houlihan
Peter Houlihan

I agree, should we believe a journal that checks it's facts? Or Nick "The Lightbringer" Kristof?

After all, it's only fact checking that's involved, it's not like he's a journalist or anything-

Oh wait...

CTH
CTH

Newsflash - Normal Mailer does not own the Village Voice any longer. Take your random self-righteous curses elsewhere.

Sheldon Ranz
Sheldon Ranz

The Village Voice doesn't prosecute anybody - it's a newspaper, not the DA!

Craig's List eliminated those ads, and some female prostitutes were forced to RETURN to their pimps. The ads help keep adult female sex workers independent.

Sheldon Ranz
Sheldon Ranz

Not in Ontario, Canada. A panel of 5 judges just legalized indoor prostitution there.

By the way, the ads in Backpage.com are legal, otherwise the Voice would have been busted a long time ago.

Aphoenix
Aphoenix

It's just like marijuana. A stupid thing to keep illegal...for more reasons than I can name here.

Guest
Guest

Really. Elucidate us. Tell us exactly how much Kristoff makes while he risks his life to bring us stories from Cambodia and sub-Saharan Africa. You want to know who the 1% are? The guys who profit off these ads.

woefatcat
woefatcat

Doesn't viva mean "blowing" in some language?

wlfairman
wlfairman

I've read the blog (as of 3/22), and watched the video. The blog (in its current form) makes none of the claims the defenders of backpage are so upset about. Nor does the video, except for the caption "Age 16, She was sold on backpage.com." Assuming this is false does not mean that she wasn't sold at 17 or 18 on backpage.

Evan
Evan

I typed a whole thing about how a significant majority of Jewish voters go for Democratic (preemptively progressive) candidates. But the better response would be:That is a very stupid comment.

azlefty
azlefty

Or they could do what NEO-Cons and their cornholers do and LIE!Yuo knowl ike your post

Tom jackson
Tom jackson

You're the very kind of pussy ' tard who gives we progressives a bad name. The new times papers, which bought village voice years ago, put the old village voice empire to shame. You embarrass yourself! Try looking at the facts. Kristof equals religious right!

azlefty
azlefty

Village Voice Media is profiting off of child prostitution.

Proof?

Guest2
Guest2

Actually he didn't. The article you're referring to, was changed on three different occasions yesterday by Kristof. He is so confused now that he never bothered to check the actual court testimony of the victim, that he makes things up as he goes along.

Zooots999
Zooots999

Profiting off prostitution (especially if you're not the one having sex for money) is bad enough. I'm a liberal and think buying sex should be illegal.

 
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