Liz McDougall - Village Voice Backpage Attorney
Now that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has joined the national effort to get Village Voice Media-owned web site Backpage.com to shut down its adult ads, it’s only a matter of time before company attorney Elizabeth McDougall (see video below) pays a trip to Capitol Hill.
McDougall – who just joined Village Voice Media at the end of February – is no stranger to testifying before Congressional subcommittees. That was just part of the job when she was working as the attorney for Craig’s List when that classified web site was under fire for fostering the exploitation of underage girls.
And while her attempts at defending the adult content ultimately failed, and Craig’s List was forced to get out of the sex-trafficking business, her new Backpage.com employers, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, presumably hired McDougall for her so-called expertise at navigating irritating political shoals.
But, as they were with Craig’s List, the politicians now are all business in their demands for Backpage.com to do away with its sex ads.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter the 19 senators sent to Village Voice Media. Their stark words serve to highlight the gravity of the exploitation epidemic driven by Backpage.com.
“A chilling report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 40 percent of incidents investigated by federally-funded task forces on human trafficking between 2008 and 2010 involved the sexual exploitation of a child. Unfortunately, these numbers only continue to rise.”
As to the culpability of Village Voice Media, in a recent New York Times column Nicholas Kristof pointed out that Backpage.com hosts about 70 percent of all online prostitution advertisements in the country.
Yes, the epidemic is serious – dead serious.
But that should not come as news to McDougall, who is an old hand at obfuscating the role that online sites play in U.S. sex-trafficking. Meanwhile, faceless Village Voice spokespersons cover her flank by issuing meaningless statements complaining of the “one-sided demonization” of Backpage.com, even though its victims turn up daily on police reports from New York to New Mexico on the wrong end of crimes ranging from prostitution, assault, home invasion and murder.
While testifying at a House subcommittee on sex trafficking in 2010 on behalf of Craig’s List, McDougall said (under oath) that the site was “the most active and aggressive fighting online trafficking.”
But, if that was the case, then why did Craig’s List get out of the sex ads business which, of course, only migrated over to Backpage.com.
“Migrate” is a word that McDougall knows only too well.
For before that same House subcommittee, she said on two separate occasions that due to the monitoring and flagging of the sex ads on Craig’s List, they had “migrated” over to Backpage.com.
And now – unbelievably – she is representing Backpage.com which, according to McDougall, is doing the same screening of adult ads that Craig’s List failed at.
There is only one word to describe McDougall’s posturing and prevarications before politicians, law enforcement and the media.
And that’s hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy in the guise of Village Voice Media’s amoral stance of putting money above anything else, in effect saying that exploited children should not stand in the way of a business that generates upwards of $22M a year in revenue.
Exploited children who number 100,000 annually and are involved and victimized by sex trafficking in America, according to the Polaris Project, an advocate group targeting the enslavement of minors.
As to McDougall’s assertion that “human trafficking online is not a Backpage.com-specific problem, and eliminating an adult category from Backpage.com would exasperate the problem, not contribute to a solution,” well we’ve heard that before when she was defending Craig’s List.
It didn’t go very well then, and no one is buying the same tired old argument now as applied to Backpage.com.
As for the “solution” that McDougall spoke of, well, that’s obvious. But neither she nor her Phoenix-based bosses want to hear anything about it.
For in the end, after all the debate, after all the talk of the First Amendment, of censorship, and all the other excuses, the exploitation of just one innocent child is one too many.
And Village Voice Media is responsible for hundreds of thousands more than that.