Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Twitter Getting Heat Over Controversial Escort Ads

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 1:54 PM

click to enlarge escort.png

At a time when Bay Area law enforcement has ramped up its campaign against human trafficking, a large San Francisco tech company might be forestalling their efforts.

According to a new investigative report from online periodical TheStreet, Twitter hosts more than a thousand ads from escorts, sex workers, and even international trafficking rings. Although these accounts violate the prohibitions against pornography and "unlawful use" laid out in Twitter's terms of service, many of them have not been removed.

In fact, a simple key word search for "erotica" yielded several pornographic profiles this morning. (Disclaimer: SF Weekly holds ads of a similar nature, and they have been a point of contention.)

A spokeswoman from Twitter told SF Weekly that the company does not proactively police its user content. Rather, the network relies on users to flag and report "potentially illegal content."

"When we are made aware of content that violates our terms of service, we remove it," the spokeswoman wrote, via e-mail. "Additionally, if we are contacted directly by law enforcement, we can work with them and provide assistance for their investigation as well as guidance around possible approaches."

But tech entrepreneur and researcher Vivek Wadhwa decries Twitter's hands-off approach, arguing that the company has greater responsibility to monitor content, now that it's gone public.

"Twitter is turning a blind eye," Wadhwa says. "When they were a young company, they could get away with it. But they're no longer a young, fledgling start-up; they're a multi-billion dollar company."

Members of Congress agreed that the social network can no longer dodge culpability for the actions of some of its users. Some are so incensed, in fact, that they might launch an official probe into, Twitter's surfeit of prostitution services. After TheStreet reporter Jonathan Marino presented his findings to New Jersey Representative Chris Smith, who sits on the subcommittee that oversees human trafficking, Smith said he would elicit testimony from Twitter executives.

In the meantime, it seems that local cops and detectives could take advantage of the network as an investigative tool, the same way they once trolled Craigslist for prostitution ads. So far, they don't seem to be doing that. Spokesmen from the SFPD have yet to answer queries from SF Weekly, but retired Sergeant Carl T says the vice unit didn't engage in much proactive tweetage.

Perhaps that will change after today's revelations.

  • Pin It

About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"