I’ve been in the medical corporate world for 24 years now. I’ve done and said some pretty stupid things to advance in the corporate world. Nothing malicious. Mostly admitting to skills that I didn’t have or pretending to share an interest with my superiors. Some times the gamble paid off other times it didn’t. One thing I never did though was compromise my principles.
If a boss had ever asked me to commit fraud or any other kind of illegal act for my job I would have walked out on the spot. This is why I can’t understand why Backpage’s new head legal weasel, Liz McDougall, says the things that she does.
This past week she was called to testify before the City Council of New York City. The council is considering a resolution urging Village Voice Media to cease the adult section on Backpage since it’s an obvious avenue for the sex trafficking of women and children.
She said the usual about how Backpage is actually helping combat sex trafficking by keeping the adult sections open. That’s nothing new. We’ve been hearing that since craigslist came under fire for the erotic services section. I mean she can’t really believe that can she? You can’t be both the problem and the solution at the same time. She must be doing this in order to try to advance her legal career. She’s even invoking her own daughter to do it too…
“I do acknowledge the role that we play,” McDougall replied. “I have a 15-year-old daughter. My heart breaks for these children. And the last thing I would ever want is my daughter exposed to something like this, which is why I am so adamant about fighting this.”
But she’s not. If she was adamant about fighting this she would be advising VVM to shut down the adult sections. Instead, she’s parroting what her employers want her too. This is nothing new that we haven’t heard out of Backpage before. Changing the player but not the lines does not make a difference.
Thankfully the council was not buying it…
“Are you thinking of setting up a drug dealing section of the Backpage website?,” asked Councilman Brad Lander, the resolution’s co-sponsor, in the midst of a tense exchange in which McDougall was repeatedly interrupted.
“I refuse to answer that question,” she said.
“How about a gun-trading or weapons-trading section?”
“I refuse to answer that question.”
“By your logic, wouldn’t they be extremely helpful in prosecuting drug-dealing and weapons-trading because, if they could just be brought online, taken out of off-shore websites and brought into the light, it would be far easier to refer them to law enforcement?”
“I don’t believe that sarcasm and rhetorical questions like this—”
She didn’t get a chance to finish.
“You have made clear that, in your opinion, this issue is grossly complex,” said Lander, concluding his line of questioning a few minutes later. “To me, it’s just gross.”
And as far as the argument goes that shutting Backpage down would be worse for law enforcement…
Daniel Alonso, Manhattan’s chief assistant district attorney, said sites like Backpage “enable traffickers to drum up demand for what they believe is a product,” and that “we don’t buy” the argument that shuttering Backpage.com’s adult ads would only serve to drive sex-trafficking further underground and out of view from law enforcement.
“We’re doing just fine without having to troll the Internet,” he said.
As the kids say, someone got told.