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  • Greg Collier 1:48 pm on March 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fair Girls, , , Johns, , , Pimps, , , ,   

    Keeping the Fight Alive against Online Sex Ads 

    I recently came across a couple of articles in the New York Times that really left me feeling disheartened, kind of frustrated and definitely sad. They both focused on human trafficking trends, specifically the use of online classifieds sites as a forum for luring, pimping and selling young girls into the sex trade.

    The first, titled “Online Sex Trade Flourishing Despite Efforts to Curb It,” left a sting in me, not just because I’ve been behind many efforts to curb the use of online ad sites for soliciting sexual encounters but more because police seem to have a “love-hate” attitude about the online sex ads.

    What can anyone possibly love about this online sex trade? Yes, it’s a sad state of society that this modern-day slavery exists, but police explain that online ads have given them a new tool to learn more about this once-underground world and “crack the code” that pimps and johns use to set-up sexual encounters. While I won’t dispute the need for police to be up-to-speed on the latest techniques and technologies, we can’t lose sight of the fact that every ad that law enforcement takes time to study is an ad for a real person trapped in this horribly violent world.

    The second article, an Op-Ed titled “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods,” honed in on the sites that turn a blind eye on these sorts of advertisements, specifically Backpage.com, an online classifieds operation owned by Village Voice Media. For many companies, a scathing set of words in the New York Times would be devastating but the folks at Backpage are defiant and defensive about all of it. After all, they’re trying to protect their bread-and-butter.

    The AIM Group, a research firm, reports that online prostitution advertising on five U.S. web sites generated at least $3.1 million in February 2012, a jump of nearly 10 percent from February 2011. Of that, nearly 80 percent – or about $2.5 million – came from Backpage. On an annual basis, the AIM Group estimates at least $36.6 million in advertising revenue, with more than two-thirds – $26 million – generated by Backpage.

    As the owner of Geebo, an online classifieds site that doesn’t host a forum for “personals” ads, I’m not reaping the financial rewards that come from these sorts of ads – but my conscience and I are sleeping well at night. I killed the personals section on Geebo in September 2010. For some time now, I’ve been standing out on that limb all alone, asking my industry counterparts to join me in removing personals ads from their sites but instead being met with a deafening silence in response.

    Fortunately, while my industry counterparts stay silent, other groups, such as FAIR Girls, are turning up the heat on these site owners and working to raise awareness about what’s really happening on these sites. Andrea Powell, co-founder and executive director of FAIR Girls, takes exception to the idea that Backpage is being responsible, as it claims, because it says it tries to screen ads for minors and alerts law enforcement when it suspects trafficking.

    “As an advocate who also searches for missing and exploited girls, I can say honestly that it is very hard to find sex trafficked girls using the online classified ad sites,” Powell said. “Pimps hide their victims in hotels, use fake names, and make a real effort to keep us from helping their victims escape. Online classified sites like Backpage.com make it easier for pimps, not victims. It’s the new frontier of sex trafficking, and we want to see these sites shut down.”

    At the very minimum, it’s time for sites like Backpage to recognize that they’re not helping the problem but instead are making it worse, providing pimps and johns with an anonymous access to an online marketplace for sex. Certainly, I’d welcome any of my competitors in classifieds to shut down but if they want to stay in the game, I’ll just keep asking that they at least kill the area of ads where pimps and johns continue to destroy innocent lives.

  • Greg Collier 10:06 am on March 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    As Prostitution Persists, Anti-Human Trafficking Activists Look to Root Causes 

    At Geebo, we and our customers come together with shared values and shared goals to create a community. And, like our customers, we’re about more than just the bottom line. We care as much about how we do things as what we do. We like the way it feels to make ethical decisions, and we like being a part of a community that supports us in that.

    In our last blog post, we wrote about social responsibility and cause-based marketing. We know that many of you are committed to a crime-free internet, which is why you do your selling and buying on Geebo, and why you’ve supported us in removing our online personal adds. We’ve learned that, through such ads, many children have been and are sold for sex on sites like Craigslist and Backpage, and we didn’t want to be any part of it! While we can’t control everything and everyone, we make every effort to create a safe space, especially for children, so we took all personals off our site, and we’ve been thriving ever since. We’ve even urged other online classified sites to do the same. We are proof that business and ethics can–and should–go hand-in-hand.

    We recently saw the words of some of our fellow anti-human trafficking activists in the Opinion Pages of The New York Times, in a section entitled “To End Prostitution, Start with the Demand Side. Norma Ramos, Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women; and Pamela Shifman, Director, Initiatives for Girls and Women, NoVo Foundation; respond pointedly and passionately to Al Baker and Tim Stelloh’s, As Other Crimes Recede, Prostitution Keeps Its Wily Hold. We hope you’ll take a few moments to read the article and Norma and Pamela’s responses, and as you do, remember that the average age of entry into “prostitution” in the United States is twelve. Twelve! Twelve year-old kids really don’t enter prostitution, they get forced, defrauded, and coerced into sex slavery.

    When we read pieces like this, and Norma and Pamela’s eloquent responses, we know that making the right ethical decision was, and is, good business. And we know that’s part of why you do you business with us. We wanted to say thanks, again, for your support, and reaffirm our commitment to a safe, transparent, and prosperous community.

    • Anuj 12:21 pm on June 6, 2012 Permalink

      Can I remind merbmes that we have longstanding resolutions on this issue of trafficking and suggest that you might cite the ones below in advocacy or look to them for possible actions:Human trafficking violates human rights (2010)The 30th IFUW Conference resolves that:1. National Federations and Associations (NFAs) educate their merbmes about the issue of trafficking as it relates to their countries, including addressing the primary causes that contribute to the practice;2. NFAs urge their respective governments to ensure that they have not only signed, but have also ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2003); if their countries have done so, NFAs monitor the status of their government’s implementation of the Protocol and take appropriate action where needed; and3. IFUW use its standing committees, its consultative status with ECOSOC, its website and member networks to advocate for measures that would reduce the incidence of trafficking.Trafficking and Exploitation of Women and Children (1998)The 26th Conference of IFUW resolves that NFAs:-urge their governments to support and implement the Declaration and Actions of the World Declaration Against Commercial Exploitation of Children, Stockholm, Sweden, 1996; and-urge their governments to protect women and children, both male and female, from exploitation by: 1.. implementing and enforcing laws prohibiting any type of exploitation of women and children especially trafficking and enforced prostitution; 2.. developing and supporting educational and training programmes to raise women and children’s awareness of how they can avoid becoming victims of trafficking and ensnared or enforced prostitution; 3.. developing and supporting educational and training programmes to raise public awareness of the social, cultural and financial implications of sex trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation; 4.. implementing and enforcing laws prohibiting sex tourism to foreign countries; 5.. ensuring that work permits, if applicable, for foreign workers are not just shields for exploitation of women and children; and 6.. assisting those who become victims of trafficking and exploitation.

  • Greg Collier 5:13 pm on March 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Causebasedmarketing, Ethics, Socialmedia   

    Social responsibility: Yes, supporting a cause can be good for business 

    Sometimes, change can be good. And I’m starting to understand that advocating for change can also be good for business.

    As the founder and CEO of Geebo, I’ve made some business decisions in the past that tie more to my ethical and moral beliefs than they do to a bottom line. I’ve written in the past about how being an investor-free company allows me to make decisions that sometimes aren’t necessarily in-line with boosting the bottom line. 

    It wasn’t until I attended a Business Insider Social Summit last month that I came across a group of people who not only advocated for “doing good” as part of a business strategy but noted how those efforts can also be good for the bottom line. 

    Call it cause-based marketing, if you will. The panelists at the summit spoke of the large consumer market that not only supports companies that are committed to good causes but also may be willing to punish companies that don’t actively support good causes. How do they punish those companies? Carol Cone, a panelist representing Edelman Business and Social Purpose, said that more than one-third of American consumers openly criticize companies that don’t support good causes, refuse to buy their products or services or share negative opinions and experiences with others. 

    Through today’s active social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter and even Yelp., consumers are empowered more than ever to share thoughts and feelings about specific businesses and products. 

    Supporting good causes and – more importantly – making business decisions with those good causes in mind has long been a part of what drives Geebo into some areas and keeps it out of others. From our early partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs in the Sacramento area to a more recent partnership with WeGoLook, an online service committed to protecting online shoppers from being victims of scams. 

    Today, Geebo’s big push – on the site and beyond – is to promote a safe online marketplace for all. Specifically, that includes elimination of personals ads where human trafficking and prostitution can often be solicited, as well as being an advocate for the cause. I was alone on that limb when I killed personals ads and again when I called on my industry counter parts to follow my lead. None did – and some wondered how the business decision would impact my bottom line. 

    Frankly, I’d do it all over again. 

    You see, success can be measured in many ways, such as the ability to sleep with your own moral conscience or to bask in the positive feedback that comes from people who support your efforts. True business success is not always measured in dollars and cents.

     It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in that sort of thinking.

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