Washington Post Will No Longer Accept Massage Parlor Ads

Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander announces welcome news in his September 29 blog post:

Post will no longer accept massage parlor ads  

The Post, long criticized for running massage-parlor ads, has decided it will no longer accept them.

An internal note, e-mailed Tuesday to The Post’s advertising staff, said: “This is to let you know that The Washington Post will no longer accept advertisements for massage parlor businesses.”

The Post had been accepting the ads if the enterprises offered proof of a valid business license from the jurisdiction where they were located. “If we learned that a specific business was not operating within the law, we would discontinue their advertising,” the note said.

But in examining that policy in recent years, it continued, “we have seen law enforcement identify a number of such businesses as being engaged in illegal activities. We have also been directed to postings on adult websites from customers of these businesses that refer to illegal activities taking place at these establishments.”

“It has become clear to us that our existing standards needed to evolve,” it added. “We have therefore decided not to accept such advertisements going forward.”

…The Post’s acceptance of the ads had also been criticized by my predecessor, Deborah Howell, who wrote about the issue in a 2006 ombudsman’s column [link]. At the time, she noted that The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times had already decided not to accept massage parlor ads.

See also:

The Washington Post: “Craigslist controversy follow-up: Backpage.com targeted, Post drops massage-parlor ads” (9/28/10)
Twenty-one state attorneys general sent a letter to Village Voice Media’s Backpage.com last week demanding that it close its adult-services section. The site responded in a blog post with many of the same defenses that Craigslist had made, saying it screens its ads and cooperates with law enforcement regularly and promptly. I don’t know that it will fare any better than Craigslist.

Ars Technica: “Ex-child prostitute sues Village Voice over sex ads” (9/17/10)

CNN: “Adult services censored on Craigslist” (9/5/10)

Polaris Project: “The Washington Post: A Paper Pimp?” (Part One) (4/9/09)

Polaris Project: “The Washington Post: A Paper Pimp?” (Part Two) (4/16/09)

The Washington Post has been advertising massage parlor ads consistently for at least 15 years.  This advertisement for Hong Kong Spa appeared in the paper in 1994.  The Washington Post also published a news article that described Hong Kong Spa as a sex trafficking location.

Letter to Gazette: “Urges Valley Advocate to stop running escort ads” (11/7/09)