Congressional Moral Panic Over The Fact That Prostitutes Now Use Twitter

from the moral-panic-jackpot dept

Politicians seem to love nothing more than to go into full on grandstanding mode whenever you mix the internet and prostitution, leaving pretty much all facts by the wayside. This often results in massively exaggerated claims about the size of the (very serious) issue of human trafficking, but more bizarrely, it almost always seeks to put the blame on websites used by prostitution organizations.

Years ago, the target was Craigslist because prostitution rings used the site to advertise. The groups who organized this attack celebrated when they finally (based on no legal reason) hounded Craigslist into shutting down certain services, totally oblivious to the fact that this does absolutely nothing to stop prostitution. In fact, smart law enforcement folks realized that rather than blaming the online service providers, working with them would allow them to investigate and arrest lawbreakers. Shutting down those services doesn't lead to stopping any prostitution, it just makes it move elsewhere.

For example, after the attack on Craigslist, many just moved on to Facebook and Backpage. And, now, a breathless article in TheStreet (complete with obnoxious autoplay video! -- you have been warned) talks about the shocking fact that prostitutes also use Twitter. As if this is a surprise.

But, of course, the article comes complete with Congressional idiots grandstanding about how this is a "big problem" for Twitter:
Notified by TheStreet of its investigation that revealed that escort services were using Twitter, Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) urged that Congress investigate. Smith sits on the subcommittee investigating human trafficking, which held hearings Monday on prostitution at sporting events, including this week's Super Bowl in New Jersey.

Addressing Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. State Department's office to monitor and combat human trafficking, Smith asked at the subcommittee hearing that he speak to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate a crackdown on Twitter, Backpage, Craigslist and other social media "that are the conduit for this terrible exploitation of women."
Of course, the way you conduct a "crackdown" is to investigate those who are actually breaking the law: not the tools they use. But, of course, going after prostitutes is a lot less interesting than going after big famous internet companies. So guess who's getting dragged to Congress?
Following that meeting, Smith, who serves as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, said he plans to convene a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing later this year, and intends to ask Twitter executives to testify on Capitol Hill to address the issue.

"I'm going to look at putting together a hearing to focus on Twitter," Smith said. "We'll look to do a hearing very soon."
Much of the ridiculous TheStreet article focuses on the fact that they're shocked (shocked!) that Twitter hasn't magically found all of the prostitutes using Twitter and killed their accounts. Because, apparently, TheStreet reporter Jonathan Marino thinks that Twitter has staffers who sort through the profiles of all ~700 million active Twitter account holders and can tell which ones are prostitutes and which are not.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:07pm

    Prostitutes will be using the Lincoln and Holland tunnels extensively this weekend. We need to crack down on the MTA!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    AricTheRed (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:18pm

    But, But....

    What if they are sucessful in shutting down this easily accesible service for finding serious action?

    Then where are our elected representative going to go find their prostitutes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    Getting basically law abiding people to do something is easier than dealing with criminals. The effectiveness of such measures does not matter, just the appearance of action. It gives the politicians something to boast about, claiming they have had a 'success' in trying to deal with the problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:29pm

    Roads too

    It has come to my attention that prostitutes have also been known to congregate under street lights on highways and byways in this great land.

    We need to investigate who funded these lights, highways and byways! A congressional committee could convene to investigate.... the House Transportation Committee.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    TRUTH REVEALED, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Think Widerer!

    It has come to our attention that most prostitutes are using English to communicate with their potential clients. We need to put a stop to this immediately!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Chewbacca is now an Ambassador? Who knew?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:34pm

    "In fact, smart law enforcement folks realized that rather than blaming the online service providers"

    So now you apparently support extra-judicial and illegal coercion of private companies and individuals, to secretly comply with organizations such as the NSA and FBI?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    Re:

    I would say you are probably pretty close with your tunnel comment because apparently these are the sort of legislators that still think the Internet is a series of tubes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    limbodog (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    Flag

    Whenever a politician grandstands about something it is because of one of two reasons:

    1. They are being paid to do so by a powerful lobby

    2. They are trying to act conspicuously opposed to something they are doing on the side on a regular basis

    e.g. Senator Larry Craig

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:39pm

    And what is inherently illegal in prostitutes using Twitter or the Internet? Should they just climb into the sewers so that the "respectable", "moral citizens" don't muddy their eyes with their mere existence?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    justok (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    A Reasonable Solution

    Many prostitutional acts start with the prostitutes taking off some or even all of their clothes. If we banned prostitutes from wearing clothes, then we could effectively eliminate a key step in the prostitutional process and no doubt halt it for ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    The article in "TheStreet" used the term "Su*** B**l"? Has the NFL sent the DMCA notice yet?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    Hang on a mo...

    Much of the ridiculous TheStreet article focuses on the fact that they're shocked (shocked!) that Twitter hasn't magically found all of the prostitutes using Twitter and killed their accounts. Hang on a mo... on the one hand he's talking about prostitution, on the other human trafficking as if they are the same thing. And you seem to be doing the same... There's no doubt a Venn diagram of the 2 would have an obvious overlap, but neither completely contains the other.

    Among other things, isn't prostitution legal in many places? Nevada for example? The Netherlands? (Sort of) the UK? How could twitter ever be expected to block access to legal things based on local geo-targetting?

    So... yet another know-nothing anti-freedom piece of crap from the "moral majority" of politics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    Going after prostitutes is a lot less interesting than going after big famous internet companies.


    Are you sure about that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    arcan, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    Just remember, these are the same people who think Google is the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:05pm

    Is Prostitution Illegal?

    It’s very hard to get worked up over something that isn’t even in a crime over here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Bankov Lasteroide, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Investigate speech

    Please call in anyone who is able to speak English. English is the language that prositutes use to solicit customers.

    For example, last month, I heard a prostitute ask if I wanted sex, even though English was not her native language.

    Anyone who uses English should be investigated. That way, it can be determined which ones are using English which normally don't, and we know that prostitutes don't normally use English.

    By collecting information on all of them that use English, we can determine which ones are the ones that are using English to solicit sex services

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    Just an observation...articles on tech dirt implement the use of hyperlinks to backup the assertions made by the author. Notice how "smart law enforcement folks" has no hyperlink? Coincidence?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:28pm

    Taxicabs

    I have a friend who's been a taxicab driver for a few years. He knows who the callgirls in town are because that's how they get to their appointments. It's high time for a taxicab crackdown!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:38pm

    Wasn't Twitter one of the few internet companies that didn't fall over themselves to sell out to the government for all they had?

    The conversation over at the DOJ probably sounded like this verbatim: "Yes, let's focus on Twitter...and teach those fuckers a lesson."

    Because cops and judges actually sound and act like that these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    AricTheRed (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Taxicabs

    So John, what you are saying is, that when the evil human-trafficking enabler that is Twitter is finally shut down folks will have to become cabdrivers to find their prostitutes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:43pm

    Cybersex

    Clearly Cybersex™, NetSex®, MudSex© and TinySex (patent pending) is the way to go. Lock it up under DRM, tax it, copyright the "acts" under ToS and create more haystacks for the NSA ... save on STDs, cross geographical barriers, give your virtual Clapper a jolly good rogering ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:46pm

    Re:

    Google bought the Internet from America Online.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

    Congress Critters panic that Prostitutes user Twitter

    Congress critters panic that prostitutes user Twitter.

    Oh My! That is far worse than the fact that congress critters use prostitutes.

    So does this mean that congress critters indirectly support Twitter -- which is used by prostitutes? Or do congress critters themselves use Twitter to engage prostitutes and that is the basis of their concern?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:54pm

    Prostitutes

    Prostitutes on Twitter = BAD.
    Prostitutes on the Hill = Nothing to see here, move along.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 1:59pm

    Re: "In fact, smart law enforcement folks realized that rather than blaming the online service providers"

    So now you apparently support extra-judicial and illegal coercion of private companies and individuals, to secretly comply with organizations such as the NSA and FBI?


    Nice jump to Conclusions, enjoy your swim back through the Sea of Knowledge.

    Valid court orders targeting specific individuals and/or specific activities that include sufficient probable cause are not "extra-judicial" nor "illegal coercion". Those are valid avenues for law enforcement to use to catch criminals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    lucidrenegade (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 2:18pm

    Notified by TheStreet of its investigation that revealed that escort services were using Twitter, Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) quietly left the room, tablet in hand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Rekrul, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 2:19pm

    Much of the problem could be eliminated by making prostitution legal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Re: "In fact, smart law enforcement folks realized that rather than blaming the online service providers"

    But he didn't say that did he? He implied they should "work" together to catch the "bad guys". That's pretty much what Yahoo! did with the NSA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    coward (anon), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 2:44pm

    the internet and prostituion

    What's going to happen when Congress discovers that prostitutes use email? And text messaging. And cell phones. And electricity.

    Nice to see at least one poster understands that human trafficing and prostitution are not the same thing. I lot of the prostitutes out there are just trying to pay their way though college. Not to minimize the horrors of the woemen, girls and boys who are forced into it. But it is fairly easy to tell which ones are doing it on their own. If they show up at your hotel room with a big black dude who stands outside your door, its a safe bet the women is there for the fun of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Re: Taxicabs

    Or just ask them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 3:10pm

    Re:

    Come on! There's no room for your silly notions of "making sense," "rationality," or "reducing harm" in this debate. This is politics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    AricTheRed (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 3:19pm

    Re: the internet and prostituion

    Just curious, how do you know they bring "Big Black Dudes"?

    Is that who you bring along, and as a plus get to ride in the car pool lane?

    Or was it your hotel room?

    Enquiring minds and all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 3:26pm

    Ooops!

    This just in:

    Twitter in conjunction with local police, raided a known hotel for debauchary. With evidence in hand, they responded to a twitter ad, #medoanythingforyou. It contained phrases such as, "you got the money? I'll give you a good time", "always a happy ending" and "I'm just a whore and I love it."

    Former Sen. Chris Dodd was the first of many lobbyists and congressmen in the raid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Ooops!

    bah ooops indeed.

    ".... lobbyists and congressmen arrested in the raid."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 3:51pm

    You know, I never knew that back in the days of early Babylon, they had internet and Twitter. It's recorded history that prostitutes existed back then.

    ...and no records of Rome showing they had Twitter and the internet, even though there are Latin words to describe those whose jobs were that. Words like prōstitūta. Then there are the Middle Ages where they were called courtesans.

    According to this article none of these "services" could have existed without the internet. That being so vital to the prostitute being able to make a deal with the John.

    See what sort of history you learn everyday right here at TD? /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 4:06pm

    this is getting quite concerning! as soon as the USA starts doing something, the UK follows! as soon as the UK starts to do something, the USA follows! i cant decide who has their arm up whose back here but someone is working both countries like puppets! and nothing good is coming out of either!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    also, blame needs to go to the frothing pro-Feminist groups who will inflate any and every statistic to further whatever agenda they have percolating at the moment. They've shown complete disregard for the opinion of any sex-industry female who disagrees with their stance even if it debunks the inflated statistics of said groups.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    JMT (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 9:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: "In fact, smart law enforcement folks realized that rather than blaming the online service providers"

    Are you new here or something? Techdirt has often discussed the successful cooperation between service providers and law enforcement to catch people doing things that are actually illegal. It's done quite openly and legally, and is a million miles away from any of the NSA's actions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jan 30th, 2014 @ 10:38pm

    Re: Hang on a mo...

    Prostitution and more importantly Escort agencies that are fully regulated by the Government are quite legal in a LOT of EU countries as well as Australia and New Zealand..

    But hey it's unlawful in the USofA so it must be STOPPED!!! with force and much banging of drums etc etc yadda yadda by idiot American buffoons whenever they get their sexually repressed knickers in a twist

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 12:51am

    Re: Re:

    Just record it and it is no longer prostitution. You are now making a porno and can call ICE to take care of those pesky cops interfering with your copyright creation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 12:54am

    I thought prostitutes were "professionals?"

    Surely they wouldn't abuse twitter?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 1:20am

    Re: A Reasonable Solution

    Want me to try and get you elected. I like your platform

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 1:33am

    Re:

    Honestly, prostitution should be officially recognized (NOT human trafficking or pimping) and get over it. Prostitution exist since humans are humans and there are girls doing it because they like the money, not because they are being forced. Isn't it better to give them the protection and benefits other workers have?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 1:58am

    Re: Re:

    I have been persuaded that taxing and regulating it is preferable to attempting to shut it down via legislation. In any case, going after the girls has never solved the problem.

    All they ever seem to succeed in is moving the problem elsewhere. Prostitution is a demand-side problem, and where there's a demand, someone will supply it. If you can't kill the demand, it's better to take a pragmatic approach. Legalize it, already!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 2:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That. I myself don't see an issue with prostitution (again, pimping IS an issue). I've already even had good times with some girls (and it can be an awesome experience) and would do it again anytime despite having no lack of "free" alternatives.

    Taboo, misconceptions and money. That's what keeps this from becoming an official work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Sacredjunk, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 3:52am

    Re: But, But....

    Don't worry, they just need to contact the NSA for any 'metadata'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 4:50am

    Re: But, But....

    " I've already even had good times with some girls (and it can be an awesome experience) and would do it again anytime despite having no lack of "free" alternatives."


    but nothing can compete with free, surely ?

    Did she sell you a T shirt as well ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: But, But....

    but doesn't the stolen watermelon always taste sweetest ? ? ?
    hee hee hee

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    And what is inherently illegal in prostitutes using Twitter or the Internet?

    Soliciting sex for money (or vice versa).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: But, But....

    They don't make them big enough to list everything you got besides that gigantic t-shirt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re:

    How does one go about hiring a porn star?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    Murray (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:17am

    "...apparently, TheStreet reporter Jonathan Marino thinks that Twitter has staffers who sort through the profiles of all ~700 million active Twitter account holders and can tell which ones are prostitutes and which are not."

    Should be a piece of cake for the NSA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    icon
    cKarlGo (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:22am

    No moar sidewalks!!!

    Prostitues also use sidewalks. I've seen it with my own eyes.

    BAN SIDEWALKS!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    S.M.I., Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 3:19am

    Re: Re:

    Right. As we all know, paying someone to have sex with you while on camera is perfectly legal. But take the camera away...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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