This Day On The Street
Continue to site
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

[video] Congress to Launch Probe Into Escort and Prostitution Services on Twitter

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) , the favorite social media powerhouse, has become a tool of escorts and prostitutes, a months-long investigation by TheStreet reveals.

WATCH: How Prostitutes and Escorts are Advertising on Twitter

More than a thousand individual Twitter profiles advertising everything from private escorts to dominatrix services were identified, many of which appear to violate the San Francisco-based company's terms of service. Twitter's terms dictate that the message system -- limited to 140 characters per message or tweet -- not be employed for "any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities." Further, the company's rules prohibit pornographic images from appearing in "header photos or user background." How these rules would be enforced was not spelled out.

TheStreet discovered that at least two international networks of escorts rely on the Twitter platform to promote and execute their services.

The reach of marketing pitches made by escort services on Twitter surprised even those plying the trade.


Cassie, a woman in her 20s who works as an escort in the Midwest and said she doubles as a prostitute, said she was unprepared for the international calls she received.

"It is definitely a concern to me that my information was broadcast there," said Cassie, who asked that her real name not be used, after  TheStreet notified her that the international escort service, ErosGuide, repeatedly tweeted out her profile offering services.

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."

"I'll certainly relay that, sir, and I would love to hear more about the information on Twitter," CdeBaca said.

Smith's comments during the hearing followed an interview with the TheStreet in which we provided the congressman evidence of dozens of escorts and prostitutes in the New York City area listed on Twitter in advance of this year's Super Bowl in New Jersey.

Must Read: Apple Plunges: Live Blog Recap

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."

This isn't the first time Twitter has been brought into a national debate. Shortly before the company's November 2013 initial public offering, CEO Dick Costolo publicly defended the company against criticisms that the board of directors lacked women members.

Now, some of Costolo's detractors say the escorts who violate Twitter's terms of service, and the company's response, represent a bigger problem in Silicon Valley and the technology community.

When asked why Twitter didn't remove these accounts, similar to the one pictured above, a Twitter representative who spoke on background provided no comment other than to cite the company's policies, terms of service and guidelines for law enforcement.

"When you're a public company you're held to a higher standard than you are when you're a private company", said Vivek Wadhwa, a prominent Silicon Valley academic and regular blogger on tech, including subjects like Twitter. "They can't just sit back and say, 'not our problem'."

Twitter's guidelines on postings relating to pornography and escorts appear to be more lax than rules cited by Facebook (FB - Get Report) and LinkedIn (LNKD - Get Report).

Facebook operates software and employs individuals to remove offensive content or material that violates the social network's terms of service. To be certain, the system has committed some serious blunders. Arguably, Facebook has acted to correct problems, which sometimes succeeded and other times have been met with criticism.

In 2013, LinkedIn changed its terms of service so that users could not "create profiles or provide content that promotes escort services." The company last year also reduced the minimum age of participation to 13-years-old.

While Twitter doesn't force escorts off its network, beer brands, for instance, require Twitter users to go through a multi-step process before becoming an approved follower of a brewer.

To follow Budweiser's main account, a user must go to the @Budweiser Twitter page and click follow. But that's just the first step. The Budweiser account then sends the user a direct message that states:

"We know it's a pain, but you can't follow @Budweiser unless you go to age.twitter.com/verify/age/?so... within 24 hours to confirm you're 21+. Thanks!"

After clicking through the link, the user is presented another screen that asks to select a date of birth and to check a box to verify that the user has read and agreed to the privacy policy.

An external company, Salesforce Buddy Media, administers this verification process, but it's not mandatory.

"It's called 'age screening,' and it's a complimentary feature offered to brands to prevent these underage Twitter users from following accounts with what we call 'age restricted content'," a representative for Salesforce Buddy Media confirmed. "The alcohol brands actually requested it; they requested it, [saying], 'Hey, can you guys put something together?' to protect them."

1 of 2

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
FB $87.28 0.43%
LNKD $207.76 -0.10%
TWTR $35.72 0.90%
AAPL $126.44 -0.13%
GOOG $523.40 0.30%

Markets

DOW 17,730.11 -27.80 -0.16%
S&P 500 2,076.78 -0.64 -0.03%
NASDAQ 5,009.2140 -3.9090 -0.08%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs