Protecting the people from corporate greed and abuse is a non-stop effort for progressive community organizers and political activists. In the organizer's toolbox are a number of tools: community groups, neighborhood associations, blogging, the telephone, facebook, direct mail, email, and now... Twitter ?
The effectiveness of Twitter as an organizing tool is being shown in a Twitter war between movie and television icon Ashton Kutcher, and the Village Voice, owners of hip urban newspapers like Denver's Westword.
According to human trafficking groups, parent company the Village Voice makes millions of dollars on ad revenues for prostitution, mostly under the labels of "massage" and "escort" services. Ashton Kutcher and wife movie star Demi Moore have joined the anti-human trafficking movement and believe reducing the profits made from prostitution will reduce the incidence of children being used against their will in the sex trade (we have had much debate about this assumption here in Colorado).
Ashton Kutcher, whose twitter name is @aplusk, has more than seven million followers, making him one of the top ten people to be followed on the social networking site. Kutcher recently has used his popularity as a soapbox to publicize his work against human trafficking. As a response, the Village Voice waged an all-out war on Kutcher's efforts, deriding his intelligence on their cover and accusing him of using "false facts."
In return, Kutcher issued a statement defending his work on the issue, and called on the Village Voice to age-test the service providers employed in companies placing ads before doing business with them. The Village Voice has not yet responded publicly to that challenge.
Kutcher also tweeted to American Airlines, Domino's Pizza and other major ad buyers of the Village Voice, that their ads were supporting the slavery of children. In response, some of these major corporations quickly broke their business ties with the Village Voice.
Kutcher denies condemning the right of adult women and men in engaging in consensual sex for money, and says his motives are purely to protect trafficked adults and children. Twitter followers of Kutcher seem split on taking sides, but most are sympathetic to the larger issue of human trafficking, and praise him for his efforts.
As a community organizer who values the progressive voice of Westword and other newspapers like it, I personally encourage parent company the Village Voice to be more discriminating in accepting ads for massage and escort services. The rights of consenting adults do not need to be sacrificed in order to combat the sexual slavery of children, immigrants, and other vulnerable people to human trafficking. The Village Voice should accept Kutcher's challenge to require their local papers to personally visit the escort and massage companies that advertise with them, and age-test their employees. Westword can be a journalistic leader by raising the bar for their industry.
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