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  • Greg Collier 8:51 am on May 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , geebo, , partnerships, ruling, Scraping   

    Site scraping may be bad business, but courts say it’s legal 

    The purpose of a classified ad is to reach the largest audience possible, casting the largest net, if you will. After all, whether you’re selling a car, renting a home or advertising a service for hire, the goal of the classified ad is to make sure that a large number of people see that ad

    So, why would anyone want to hinder the ability to reach the largest audience? Through a lawsuit, that’s exactly what craigslist was trying to do by arguing that it held copyright on the user-posted ads that appear on its sites. But, earlier this month, a judge ruled against the large classified site, noting that the site itself – craigslist, in this case – does not hold copyright over an ad unless it’s granted exclusive rights to it.

    Call it a victory for the “scrapers” in that the courts have defended the ability to take an ad from one site and repurpose it on another. As a site owner, I’m definitely not advocating the idea that a new site could steal ads from Geebo and make a profit from it. But I also understand the importance of large net.

    By law, scraping may be allowed – but I think of it as the lazy approach. At Geebo, we take pride in our syndication efforts. We create solid business relationships with other sites to maximize the exposure for the people who have something to advertise. Geebo has relationships with real estate sites and car buying sites, for example, to not only put Geebo’s ads into bigger nets but also to put other ads in front of Geebo visitors.

    For us, syndicating content is good business. We’re open and upfront about it, making sure our customers know what we’re doing and why. To us, scraping content is not a good business practice, despite the widespread practice. It’s a free ride on the sweat of someone else’s work. Still, the court was right in noting that the ad itself does not belong to the site publisher but instead to the user.

    We know that publishers are constantly looking to harvest Geebo’s content. But instead of blocking them, we reach out directly and try to establish a bona fide partnership that includes cost-per-click/lead pricing, something that’s fair to both parties.

    Bottom line: The content is out there for the taking. But site publishers can either attempt to block the practice of scraping the way craigslist did or they can embrace it as a new business opportunity, the way Geebo has.

    The courts have spoken, leaving the ball back in our courts so that we can embrace the best business practices. The goal is to make sure the user – whether someone looking to buy or sell – has the best experience.

    That’s good business.

     
  • Greg Collier 9:05 am on March 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: geebo, , journalist, Kamala Harris, ,   

    Raising Awareness to Aid the Fight against Human Trafficking 

    A friend of mine, knowing that I closely follow news about human trafficking, introduced me to a new resource – a sharp journalist out of San Diego who is doing more than just following criminal cases that involve human trafficking.

    This reporter, a woman named Elizabeth Aguilera, is also looking at the trends around labor and sex trafficking – putting names and faces on the victims and, more importantly, illustrating how this isn’t just a crime that victimizes immigrants. Human trafficking is impacting kids right in our own neighborhoods, the kids we’ve seen grow from toddlers to teens before our very eyes.

    Earlier this month, Aguilera published a piece in the San Diego Union Tribune that raised awareness around a trend that, sadly, isn’t new. The headline of that story speaks volumes: “U.S. sex trafficking victims are mostly American kids.” The headline is based on the revelation in a report released by California Attorney General Kamala Harris last year that 72 percent of human trafficking victims are Americans, not foreigners. More importantly, it was also revealed that victims are now younger – typically ages 12-14, officials said.

    Statistics can be funny things. People like to twist facts and stats to meet the definitions of the point they’re trying to make at any given time. As a journalist, it would have been easy for someone like Aguilera to post the stats, find some official to talk about them and then write a simple story that might easily be overlooked.

    But Aguilera instead focused the beginning of her story around a typical teenager who found a job as a bookkeeper for a small, home-based business and instead found herself forced into a months-long ordeal of beatings and sexual slavery. Her employer – a pimp who set a $1,200 daily prostitution quota for the 17-year-old girl – is now serving 30 years in prison.

    As the owner of a classified ads business, I understand that people are being victimized through the Internet. I understand that predators use classified ads to find their victims and evade authorities. As such, I refuse to give these predators a place to lure victims into worlds of slavery. Geebo does not host personals ads where many of these encounters originate. Sadly, some of my counterparts in the industry still turn a blind-eye about the ads that are running on their sites, so long as the ads generate revenue.

    In the end, it all comes down to awareness – making our young children aware of the dangers on the Internet, making our law enforcement officials aware of the way predators use the Internet and, most importantly, making the public aware that these sorts of things are happening – not just in third-world countries, but in our own neighborhoods with our own kids.

    Trafficking cases are up across the nation – that’s the bad news. The good news is that, through education and awareness, this trend can be reversed. It must be reversed. I applaud journalists like Aguilera who work on the front lines every day to make sure that we, the people, are aware.

     
    • Marc DuMoulin 12:01 pm on March 22, 2013 Permalink

      You can also go to the International Justice Mission (IJM.org) and see the work they are doing in this field.

    • Allison Parks 11:18 pm on March 22, 2013 Permalink

      I wish they would finish the research on how the pornography industry goes hand in hand with trafficking these days, girls and women are being heavily trafficked in the porn business these days….they lure them with modeling jobs under false pretenses, isolate them and encourage drug use to keep them compliant.

    • Laurence Hudson 10:58 am on March 25, 2013 Permalink

      Profits of crime, terrorist financing, money laundering seem to be the big three in terms of building statistics, interpolating information from dozens of sources, and making arrrests. How is it that human trafficking does not have the same investigatory systems in place?

    • Derri Smith 8:14 pm on March 29, 2013 Permalink

      Good for Geebo! Great to hear that you do not carry personals.

  • Greg Collier 3:28 pm on January 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: acquisition, , geebo, Oodle, QVC,   

    Can a Company Become Unique via Acquisition? 

    One of the keys to being successful in business is keeping an eye on your industry – and your competitors. Over the past several years, the classified ads industry, like so many others, has been through its own periods of challenging times. Some of the companies – Geebo included – have adopted new strategies or developed new partnerships to bring something unique to the playing field.

    Geebo, for example, partners with a site called wegolook.com so that buyers of big-ticket items listed in Geebo’s ads in other parts of the country can dispatch an inspector to take a closer look before the transaction is finalized. It’s a differentiator that helps make Geebo unique.

    For some time, I’ve been watching Oodle, a competitor that’s steadily been focusing its business model around social networking, specifically Facebook and its marketplace. Bringing buyers and sellers together via their online friends, as well as their friends of friends, was Oodle’s differentiator. And it seemed to be working for them.

    So, imagine my eyebrow raise when I read last month that Oodle was being acquired by QVC – yeah, that QVC, the shopping company. In blog posts, just as anyone might expect, both companies praise the deal, playing up each other’s strengths and how this will impact the growing world of social commerce.

    It’s definitely an interesting approach and one that probably still has a lot of potential to be shaped, re-defined and groomed.. But I will admit that I also wondered if this is a case of big company swallowing smaller company, tapping into the best of what it does and sacrificing the rest of it down the road. Certainly, I don’t know that to be true, but a post on Techcrunch last month suggested that QVC was especially interested in Oodle’s mobile platform – which would make sense. The question is how much of the rest of Oodle is QVC interested in. At some point we’ll find out.

    I’m a big believer in independence for a company, an investor-free approach that allows a founder-executive to call the shots for the long-term good of the company, instead of for the quick return. I only mention this because, Techcrunch also notes that, in an earlier interview, Oodle execs believed that, through social, they could compete with and possibly even become a major challenger to the biggest players in the classifieds business.

    Is that the way this will play out for Oodle now? Or will the dream that a small company once had be reduced to a bullet point on an annual corporate goals strategy presentation?

    Who knows how this will turn out? Like any good businessman, I’ll be watching to see what works and what doesn’t in my industry.

     
  • Greg Collier 1:31 am on October 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Economy, geebo, , Milestone, Site traffic   

    Geebo reaches site traffic milestone as focus on job listings attracts visitors 

    When you run your own business and the economy turns sour, there are tough decisions that you sometimes have to make. Some owners look at ways to scale back their operations. Others look for opportunity to expand.

    And still others – like myself – look for ways to adjust.

    Over at Geebo, we understand the diversity of a site that hosts classified ads. Some people are looking for a more economical car while others may be in search of a roommate. What we noticed was an uptick in searches for jobs – and immediately shifted our own resources to focus on job seekers.

    I identified the most visited area of the site and focused all of my efforts in that one section. Direct employers, recruiters, employment specific advertising agencies and stand-alone jobs boards are always looking for new outlets to distribute their jobs and, with that growth in job volume, the eyeballs to those listings followed.

    It appears that shift in strategy was a good call. In August, Geebo reached a site traffic milestone of more than 1 million monthly unique visitors. That’s a 180 percent increase over the same month a year earlier and enough to land Geebo in the second-place spot for most-visited classifieds site, excluding craigslist, according to market research firm compete.com.

    And, as the projections for economic conditions in the coming months appear to be brighter, Geebo is well-positioned to ride the wave. Earlier this month, a CareerBuilder survey found that 26 percent of employers have plans to add permanent full-time employees in the fourth quarter, an increase of five percentage points from 2011 and closely mirroring pre-recession estimates of 27 percent.

    Through various marketing initiatives, Geebo has been working to ensure that job seekers are kept informed of new vacancies in the job market the moment new listings are posted to Geebo. Likewise, we’ve identified new job distribution partners and implemented efforts around Search Engine Optimization in an effort to drive job seekers to Geebo.

    Sometimes, in business, it’s not just about understanding the challenges that are ahead but how to adapt and adjust in a way that allows you to turn those challenges into opportunities.

     
    • Jessica Johnson 4:50 pm on December 14, 2012 Permalink

      Congrats Greg; quite an achievement–and done while maintaing an ethical business standard of not listing sex-related ads, which are often used in the trafficking of children. You and your staff should be very proud!

  • Greg Collier 2:35 pm on August 29, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CNBC, Entrepreneurs, geebo   

    Beyond Email: Face-to-face meetings are still good for business 

    When you’re an entrepreneur, the level of success for your business is largely connected to the amount of effort you put into it.

    Some business owners tend to celebrate a strong business relationship and work to maintain it. After all, when business is good, there’s no reason to rock the boat. But others – especially those of us with a true entrepreneurial spirit – are never satisfied. We’re constantly looking at ways to take it to the next level, to make a strong business relationship even stronger.

    Earlier this month, CNBC published a business feature story with the headline, “Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurs.” I am proud to say that I was one of the entrepreneurs they highlighted. The portion that focused around me was centered around an already-solid business relationship I had with one of my clients.

    I wasn’t concerned about the business relationship I had with this client. We were working well together – so much so that our correspondence was pretty much limited to phone and email communications. But in an effort to learn more about how my site could jump to the next level, I scheduled a face-to-face meeting. The CNBC post explains it nicely:

    “Both sides were happy with the relationship, and as a result had done all of their communicating through email and the phone — but this time, [Collier] decided to make the trip out to see them in person. While there, he learned that the conversion rate for the company’s job postings wasn’t the 20 percent he thought, but closer to 50 percent — and the company was eager to do more business with the site.”

    That one meeting was such an eye-opener that I started setting up other face-to-face meetings with other customers. Just by sitting down and talking with them, really getting into the heart of the relationships, I was able to drive a 700-800 percent increase in revenues over 18 months – all because I actually took the time to sit down and chat face-to-face with my clients.

    Too often in business, we let technology drive the relationships with have with our vendors, partners and customers. While the Internet and all that it offers has helped us expand our businesses geographically, well beyond our physical location, it has also forced us to communicate with each other over middle-of-the-night emails and faceless conference calls.

    The idea of having a face-to-face meeting with a client is as old as business itself. Yet, in an age where business relationships are sealed over e-mail, it’s important to take a step back from time-to-time and take an old school approach.

    If that’s what it takes to stay one step ahead of a frenzied, always-on business environment, then so be it.

    Related Posts:
    Social responsibility: Yes, supporting a cause can be good for business
    An investor-free company has flexibility to adapt, grow and succeed

     
  • Greg Collier 9:05 am on June 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: age-verification, , geebo, , , ,   

    Judge should uphold state law to require age-verification for adults ads; Other states should follow. 

    There aren’t many business owners who might cheer for more government regulation, but I can’t help but applaud legislators in Washington state for standing up to protect their young citizens from falling into a world of human slavery and prostitution.

    The new state law, which was set to take effect last week, allows classified advertising to be criminally prosecuted for publishing sex-related ads peddling children, unless they can prove a good-faith attempt to verify the age of the advertised person. Days before it was set to take effect, Backpage filed suit against the state over the law and won a 14-day restraining order, pending a judge’s decision.

    I continue to be just appalled by the reasoning that Backpage applies when it defends its actions publicly – and I certainly hope that the judge in Washington sees past Backpage’s morally-questionable arguments about being a friend to law enforcement or human rights organizations that are working to help victims avoid the traps of human slavery.

    Also see: CNN: A lurid journey through Backpage.com

    The company argues its site is not a haven for prostitution but instead one that provides a marketplace for a legal sexual encounters between consenting adults. That may be true – just as neighborhood bars provide a place for adults of legal drinking age to drink liquor. But the owners of those bars are required to check the identification of the people who enter their businesses, especially if they have reason to believe that the customer is under the legal age. If they fail to do so, they can be criminally prosecuted – as it should be.

    The argument is the same for classifieds, whether online or a community-based publication. Backpage should be required to either check IDs or shut down that portion of its site. Otherwise, someone should go to jail the first time a child is advertised for sexual favors.

    Backpage makes a lot of money – tens of millions of dollars – through the sex ads on its site and is certainly not afraid to spend some of that money on a gang of lawyers that will argue jurisdiction and First Amendment and attack the law itself for being unconstitutional or vague. The lawyers have already issued a reminder to the judge that, just because a law has a laudable goal doesn’t make it valid.

    While I have continued to be dismayed at other judicial decisions I’ve seen in my time, I have to believe that the judge in Washington will see past the hot air that Backpage has been blowing and uphold the state’s law. The states have an obligation to protect their citizens, especially those too young to protect themselves.

    We have rules about the types of businesses that can – or cannot – be established within certain distances from schools. We have labor laws that are designed to protect children from excessive work and there are social agencies that remove children from their homes when neglect or abuse are suspected.

    And yet a company that publishes sex-ads can’t be held responsible for accepting an advertisement that clearly offers children for sale for sex?

    It’s hard to imagine that there isn’t already a law.

    Earlier Posts:
    Backpage.com can’t pretend to fight a war that it keeps alive
    Keeping the Fight Alive against Online Sex Ads

     
  • Greg Collier 4:46 pm on May 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , geebo, , OLX, online prostitution, PennySaver, Recycler   

    Responsible Classifieds Sites: Yes, We Exist 

    There’s an old expression about the squeaky wheel being the one that gets the oil. It’s an an analogy that’s widely used in different scenarios – the school officials who pay attention to the trouble-maker but give no recognition to kids who pay attention in class or the boss who deals with the complainer in the office but takes little notice of the employee who meets all of his deadlines.

    In recent months, the attention on the online classifieds news business has focused pretty much on craigslist and backpage – and not in a good way. Mind you, I’m not complaining – and I’m guilty of also focusing on them – because it puts pressure on these sites to recognize the harm that they’re inflicting on society simply because they seem to turn a blind eye to human trafficking, child prostitution and other morally-objectionable crimes that flourish on their sites.

    I’ve spoken out on this time and time again and I’ve made no secret of how I feel about these sites. But what I – and the news media – have failed to do in our awareness-raising reports is to shed some light on those in the online classifieds business who are providing safe online marketplaces where prostitution – disguised as “personals” ads – are simply not allowed. Much like Geebo, sites such as recycler, pennysaverusa and olx.com, which followed Geebo’s lead and also dropped personals ads, have operated in a responsible manner. Though these sites are competitors to Geebo, I also like to think of them as allies in the fight to clean up online marketplaces and provide safe forums for people to advertise everything from job listings and car ads to real estate listings and garage sale items.

    It’s sad that the face of classifieds has taken such a dark turn. There was a day, back when newspapers dominated the industry, that these sorts of taboo activities that have become the mainstream were isolated to red-light publications and neighborhoods. Sure. it was a problem back then, too, but it was isolated. We could warn our children to stay out of those neighborhoods and away from those elements. Law enforcement officials were able to monitor the areas and enforce the laws when it was so warranted.

    Today, those sites have put these criminal activities into the mainstream, in a place where our children can easily access bad people with bad intentions without any supervision. Despite what the operators of these sites claim, their efforts to monitor are laughable.

    We should all take a lesson from the pioneer of classifieds ads – the newspapers. Mainstream family-oriented newspapers, which provided a forum for news and community on their pages, never would have allowed such ads on their pages. They were the gatekeepers that set the rules and standards for what was appropriate and what wasn’t. As an operator of an online classifieds site, I believe in following in their footsteps when it comes to serving as that gatekeeper for my own site.

    I continue to be both amazed and saddened that a handful of sites can disregard that gatekeeper role and let criminals roam freely on their sites to seek out victims. At the same time, I am proud to be part of another group of sites that have chosen to take the higher road and provide safe marketplaces.

    Today, I applaud them and encourage people to patronize them. Let them know that you appreciate what their efforts and responsible business practices.

     
  • Greg Collier 10:05 am on May 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ABC, , geebo, , Nightline, ,   

    Backpage.com can’t pretend to fight a war that it keeps alive 

    The old expression about money being the root of all evil is no more true than it is today in the offices of Village Voice Media, parent company of backpage.com.

    By now, it’s pretty much accepted that backpage.com has become the Internet’s defacto marketplace for sex trafficking of both adults and children. Law enforcement officials know it. Prostitutes and pimps know it. And, certainly, the johns who fund this underground world, know it.

    But despite all the pressure for backpage.com to pull these ads from its site – from police and politicians to activist groups and even those in the business, like me – no one at backpage seems to be fazed. I guess an estimated $22 million in annual profit for Village Voice is enough to ease a conscience and buy a good night’s sleep.

    Still, I continue to believe that it’s a fight worth fighting and I’m encouraged that backpage.com is being kept under the spotlight for its practices. But I think what bothers me most is that the company tries to portray itself in a positive light, as a company that’s troubled by the acts of human trafficking that are being advertised on it site and is working hard to eradicate it.

    Give me a break.

    In a recent segment on ABC News Nightline, backpage.com attorney Liz McDougall actually had the nerve to suggest, when pressed to comment about the amount of money backpage.com profits from these ads, that “…this is not about money. This is about providing a tool to save children online.”

    I’m appalled at the suggestion that backpage.com – which is regularly used by law enforcement officials as a way of both learning more about the underground world of sex trafficking and targeting traffickers in sting operations – would ever be considered a tool for saving children.

    In the same Nightline interview, McDougall suggests that “if shutting down the adult category on one website was the answer to stop child exploitation, I would be all over that and I would be out front saying that’s the answer. That is not the answer.”

    My response to that is that no one is suggesting that shutting down the sex ads on backpage will bring an end to child exploitation or human rights violations. But what backpage.com is choosing not to acknowledge is the role that it plays in allowing this underground world to grow and prosper. McDougall says the site invests manpower in identifying questionable ads and refers those ads to law enforcement officials – but if it didn’t allow the ads to begin with, it wouldn’t have to monitor them. And the idea that a room full of employees manually scouring the ads, instead of a high-tech solution to identify them, is making any sort of dent in the problem is laughable.

    At Geebo, we don’t employ dozens of people to scour the site for possible acts of human trafficking or child prostitution. I pulled all of the personals ads from Geebo nearly two years ago – and my conscience and I sleep great at night.

    Related posts:
    Keeping the Fight Alive against Online Sex Ads
    As Prostitution Persists, Anti-Human Trafficking Activists Look to Root Causes
    Business decisions can be driven by moral values. Will Backpage step up to prove it?

     
    • Norma Ramos 7:35 pm on May 21, 2012 Permalink

      Greg Collier of Geebo provides an outstanding example of what corporate responsibility looks like. In fact, Geebo is setting the standard for the online classifieds industry.

      Mr Collier could choose to profit from the commercial sexual exploitation of human beings, but he has made a conscious decision not to. This is why in my comments at a New York City Council Hearing on Bachpage a few weeks ago, I cited Geebo as the leader in the industry. Backpage continues to make the specious claim that it is fighting trafficking when it is clear that it is making spectacular profits from the sex trade – now spreading this misery to 4 additional countries.

  • Greg Collier 5:38 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ERE Expo, , geebo, Job Boards, , KODA, , Recruiting, , SilkRoad, ,   

    Social Networks May Provide Connections But Job Boards Showcase Opportunities 

    It’s no secret that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become the Internet’s go-to places for sharing news, milestones and – in this economy – leads on job openings. And certainly any professional who’s been searching for employment in recent years has put together a LinkedIn profile to showcase his or her skills.

    So where does that leave job boards, such as the one I host on Geebo? Are they destined to fall by the wayside as social networks become the new home for job listings?

    The short answer to that question is, quite simply, no.

    In fact, at the recent ERE Expo in San Diego – considered to be the premier conference for recruiting professionals – I noticed that the social networks were nowhere to be found. I saw no signs of Facebook or Twitter or even LinkedIn.

    It turns out that, when it comes to linking employers with prospective employees, social really isn’t the most effective route. Consider the points that a couple of recruiting and job board experts made during a recent Q&A in Forbes. Job boards, they said, offer faster signals to the market. They are good for driving lots of eyeballs to a single job listing that’s tied to a certain industry or location, which is especially good for reactive small businesses who tend to post a job as the need for help arrives.

    But recruiting over social networks has two primary problems associated with it (among others):

    1) The ability to apply online for something that a jobseeker may or may not be qualified for leads to what’s called “Resume Spam” by job seekers who cast the widest net possible by applying for everything – even if they’re not qualified or clearly didn’t read the job description.

    2) Friends tend to overvalue their ability to judge their friends abilities. Consider your out-of-work accountant neighbor. You know he’s out of work and you think of him when you hear about an opening out there – but what do you really know about his job skills, work ethic or professional background? He may be a nice guy and quick to lend a neighborly hand from time to time – but does that make him qualified for a particular job?

    When a job seeker comes to a site like Geebo to scan active listings, they can immediately filter down the choices by industry and location. Because these listings tend to be fresh, job seekers understand that there are opportunities out there.

    Sure, social is a great way for recruiters to identify people who might be good matches for their open positions. And as a means of learning more about potential candidates, social networks offer a greater insight that goes beyond the resume. But as a place to solicit and find the right matches, social is almost too big to be effective.

    Consider what happened to KODA a few years ago. The startup company rounded up millions in venture capital money to deliver a site that brought together the elements of social networks and job boards – a idea filled with challenges that eventually proved to be too much for the company, which has since headed into the sunset.

    Social has a role here but, by no means, should anyone start writing the job board’s obituary. In a recent blog post, SilkRoad, a company that focuses on “social talent management,” chimed in about the importance of job boards in finding talent and ranked sites that were the leading external sources for hiring.

    Not surprisingly, Facebook, Twitter and other social sites were nowhere on that list.

     
    • Lindsay 2:45 am on October 24, 2012 Permalink

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

     
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