Monday, May 7, 2012

Corporate Power Consumer Power

A few weeks ago in her Amirah blog entry Jody reminded us of some of the everyday steps we can take to stay engaged in the abolition movement. I want to follow up on those suggestions and on some of my own earlier posts about seeking change with consumer power by highlighting one particular movement involving financiers, corporate brands and online petitions.

 The Backpage/Village Voice petitions groundswell.
As many know, online sources of prostitution constitute over 80 % of the North American sex trade. Included in that number are thousands of children and women who are trapped by pimps. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has been working on bringing to light women and children who are marketed  through Backpages  in his investigative journalism. Not only has he told the story of teen sex workers but also revealed names of investors who back the Village Voice and Backpages. For example, Goldman Sachs began divesting when their name became publically associated with the issue through Kristof’s March  NYT article "Financiers and Sex Trafficking". (It should be noted that Village Voice has denounced  his articles an uninformed and that they are not considering dropping the adult section at this time).  However, the popularity of the petitions, such as those generated on, has appealed not only to the editors and owners of the Village Voice but was addressed to advertisers, as well. According to updates, many large brands have pulled out due to the pressures of the petition and the public outcry: of course these popular brands don’t want to be associated with the online sex industry. Companies such as Starbucks, Macy’s, Harley Davidson and  American Airlines are some of the thirty or so quick to drop their ads and join  in the petitioning, as well.

Who has yet to pull their ads? According to an online marketing news journal, The Brand Channel, other major advertisers have not yet responded to the petitions. We still need to reach Disney, Warner Brothers, and American Apparel among others to whom the petitions are being addressed.
Kristof says,“There are no easy solutions to sex trafficking. I think the most important single step is for prosecutors to focus more on pimps and johns.” However,  “…closing down the leading Web site used by traffickers would complicate their lives, and after so many years of girls being trafficked on this site, it’s time to hold owners accountable.”[i]  

Will you lead the next wave?  I love reading about petitions and social media campaigns that effect social change and public awareness for good. This Village Voice campaign has been spiraling through Facebook, twitter, and mainstream news blogs. Many of us also remember in 2010 the attention that Craigslist received for its "adult" ads and the ensuing public pressure through boycotting and petitions that eventually led to them closing down that section of their site. According to researchers this has actually  interfered with online sourced supply/demand chain of precious human lives!

You could be the next person to spark a wave of public protest and compassion! The trend of disturbing and easy electronic means of accessing a marketplace of women and children can be overturned by harnessing the positive potential of the same  internet for being the vehicle of resistance, education and social change.
In Hope,

[i] NYT Sunday Review Op-Ed March 31 2012

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