Global Philanthropy Group president Trevor Neilson, who on July 14 e-mailed a letter to Seattle Weekly advertisers urging them to withdraw their advertising from the publication on account of ads allegedly involving underage sex trafficking on parent company Village Voice Media's adult classifieds service, Backpage, today e-mailed a second letter to those same advertisers, stating that he is "no longer calling on advertisers to withdraw their ads from the Village Voice, the Seattle Weekly, or any of their related publications."
"Over the course of the last week I have had numerous discussions with Village Voice, and have come to believe that they are serious about working diligently to prevent their digital classifieds website from being used by those seeking to exploit children or others," writes Neilson, who's been associated with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and their DNA Foundation on the topic of sexual exploitation of minors.
Shortly after Seattle Weekly and its VVM sister papers ran a cover story which was critical of DNA's interpretation of numbers surrounding underage prostitution, Neilson brought the issue to the attention of Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, who ultimately responded by pulling city advertising from the pages of Seattle Weekly. (Unlike the web-based Backpage, which relies on credit card and ISP information to track its users, Seattle Weekly checks the ID of all individuals appearing in the adult classifieds section of its print edition.) Since Neilson reached out to McGinn, Backpage representatives have met with the mayor and City Councilmember Tim Burgess, as well as the DNA Foundation, to explore security enhancements associated with the site.
Following is the full text of Neilson's July 25 letter to select Seattle Weekly and Village Voice Media advertisers:
I wanted to update you on the situation with Seattle Weekly and Village Voice Media that I emailed you about on July 14.
Over the course of the last week I have had numerous discussions with Village Voice, and have come to believe that they are serious about working diligently to prevent their digital classifieds website from being used by those seeking to exploit children or others.
Currently, I am informed they are looking at ways that new technology can be used to verify the ages of those whose photos appear on their websites. It is a task that hasn't been perfected on the web yet but I am assured by Village Voice and Seattle Weekly that the resources, manpower and effort are being marshaled by them in consultation with IT and safety professionals to address the issue.
I am encouraged by their actions in the last week, and believe they have demonstrated a serious commitment to stopping online predators who traffic in underage children or other victims.
Based on these discussions, and what Village Voice and Seattle Weekly have demonstrated, I wanted you to know that I am hopeful that Village Voice Media's efforts will be successful, and I will do what I can to be helpful in the process. In light of these efforts and commitments, I am no longer calling on advertisers to withdraw their ads from the Village Voice, the Seattle Weekly, or any of their related publications.
Trevor Neilson, President
Global Philanthropy Group