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.

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Companies: thestreet, twitter

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Comments on “Congressional Moral Panic Over The Fact That Prostitutes Now Use Twitter”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Re: 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?

Pragmatic says:

Re: 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!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Gwiz (profile) says:

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.

JMT says:

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.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

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.

G Thompson (profile) says:

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

Bankov Lasteroide says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

DannyB (profile) says:

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?

coward (anon) says:

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.

Baron von Robber says:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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