The VVM story, then, finds and demolishes the stated number, gets an empirical basis for the actual number, and makes a powerful point about how current initiatives are a way of spending too much money on exactly the wrong thing. If there were hundreds of thousands of underage prostitutes in the US, then the Congressional appropriations would make sense. But given the actual numbers, that money would be much better spent on shelters.There are, however, big weaknesses with the piece. For one, it gratuitously attacks Ashton Kutcher, a smart person who's making the world a better place, in an unpleasantly ad hominem manner. Kutcher is not the problem here. And it needs a lot more serious discussion of VVM's own ethics with regard to running adult classifieds, including classifieds which turn out to be advertising underage prostitutes.You can argue about the efficacy of Kutcher's campaign, but he's not making the problem worse. VVM, meanwhile, is a non-negligible part of the problem, and needs be a lot more honest about its own place in the child-prostitution ecosystem. The result of all this has been a destructive Twitter war with Kutcher, which has already resulted, among other things, in American Airlines pulling ads from VVM websites.VVM, in other words, could hardly have engineered a higher heat-to-light ratio if they'd tried. All of which makes the article look less a serious investigation, and more a noxious publicity stunt. If VVM is willing to examine its own behavior with regard to child prostitution in detail, then this road might have been well worth traveling. But if they just want to take potshots at Ashton Kutcher, I do wonder whether they will ultimately achieve anything at all, beyond a general notoriety.
How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.