With the announcement this past weekend that The Village Voice is being sold came word from the new owners that Backpage.com would not be among the properties included in the deal.
The owners had been under increasing pressure to shut the site down, with critics saying the site advertises prostitution and sex trafficking.
Congressman Bob Turner (R-Queens and Brooklyn) has been among the most vocal critics of the site, and has called for its closure.
In a statement issued by his office on Tuesday, Turner said separating the web page from the remainder of The Village Voice holdings falls far short of his demand that Backpage.com be shut down.
“Backpage.com’s morally corrupt and illicit role as a hub for child sex trafficking, prostitution and other illegal activity can clearly be seen in the split of Village Voice Media’s holding,” Turner said. “Those in control at The Village Voice have been sent a clear message by investors and the general public that being attached to the controversial section of the Backpage website is not on solid professional or moral ground.”
But Turner also said that the act of splitting the companies is not enough, and that the public needs to keep the pressure on.
“This is simply a diversion and not an acceptable solution,” he said.
Published reports state that The Voice and related alternative weeklies may still run similar print ads.
Locally, Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) was embroiled in a controversy last May when it was learned that her congressional campaign employs Multi-Media to do its printing.
Multi-Media has some of the same management as the Queens Tribune, a newspaper that regularly features advertisements that critics such as Ann Jawin of the Center for Women of New York say promote prostitution.
Numerous ads routinely advertise the use of young Asian women especially.
Michael Nussbaum, who runs Multi-Media, also serves as executive vice president of the Tribune, and operates out of the same address as the newspaper.
Since the story broke, Meng has introduced a bill in the state Assembly that could address some of the illegal activity while protecting freedom of speech concerns outlined by Michael Schenkler in a Tribune column that ran the week of May 10-16.
The bill, A. 10266, was introduced on May 16. It would amend state business statutes to require that massage therapists list their state license numbers in any advertising.
All legitimate massage therapists are licensed and regulated by the state, and have license numbers much like those building and home improvement contractors are required to list.
A summary of the legislation on the Assembly’s website says there is no companion bill in the Senate, but does list an amendment to an existing Senate bill.
Jawin, who back in May gave Meng an award for her efforts on behalf of women’s rights, said Tuesday that she does not know how much good such a bill would do, even if it should become law.
“These ads advertise ‘Hot Asian Beauties,’” Jawin said. “They don’t even pretend to be offering massages anymore. Those ads are not paid for by the women. They are put out by their pimps. I don’t understand how it can be legal.”
Meng spokesman Austin Finan said Tuesday that her campaign still retains Multi-Media for its printing needs.