Google and its anti sex work stance

We love Google, we all use Google and look for good rankings in Google search to advertise are business.  Google can do no evil, or can it.

Google can be a hindrance to sex workers.   Google does not allow paid adverts for escort services.  Try entering London Escort in search, and for the paid for adverts you can end up with many offensive dating adverts. Offensive to sex workers.  Just my luck I was looking for an example and there are none today.    

Turn off the Blue Light the Irish sex worker group campaigning against pending Irish legislation  wanted to advertise their campaign against the Irish Government using Google Adwords, and ended up with the same problem, Google would not accept the advert.  Eventually after mush protest Google finally relented.

Recently Google donated funds to anti slavery organisations to fight slavery and trafficking.  They could not have chosen organisations worse for sex worker rights.  Three of these organisations  supported by Google,  International Justice Mission, Polaris and Not For Sale are no friends of sex workers.  I followed Polaris on twitter for a while, and eventually grew fed up with their tweets on sex worker client/ manager busts in various cities around the world conflating consensual sex work with trafficking and slavery and under age prostitution.

Recently there has been a campaign against Google organised by Swaay.   I hope there is another campaign in January and that we can coordinate our own one for the same time in London.

Reviewing my Google+ account I came across this excellent article written by Monique Tracy Stuart Troth  who clearly explains why Google should not support these three organisations.  I have taken the liberty to quote her post here for you to be able to read.  The article Google gives back.

“As someone who has been researching and writing about slavery and trafficking since 2005, I worry that the overall desire to help on the part of Google has overridden a lot of details that must be understood if we are going to find a way to rid the world of trafficking and slavery. The most harmful and least understood of these details is the importance of supporting organizations that distinguish between consensual sex work and sexual slavery (something the State Department finally does and something NGOs must do to really help combat this blight).

International Justice Mission is a Christian group whose abolitionist practices are founded in morality, which casts anyone involved in sex work, coerced or not, into the role of victim in need of salvation. Their crackdowns on the sex industry is driving prostitution further underground, making it difficult for law enforcement to find real victims, and impossible for sex workers who have information about crimes to step forward.

The Polaris Project is little different. One look over their materials exposes their position on consensual sex work: they see no difference between a sex slave and a topless dancer. It’s also worth noting that they were one of the organizations on the forefront of the attack on Craigslist that resulted in the removal of the erotic services section. The problem with efforts like these is that people involved in sex trafficking will not cease their activities because a single avenue is closed off. Almost immediately after the section was closed, listings for adult services began to appear in other sections of Craigslist — in sections that do not require payment for postings, meaning there is no paper trail to follow for law enforcement.

While opponents of Craigslist may shake fists screaming about how Craigslist “profited” from sex trafficking, it is important to remember that the system of payment for adult services was instituted to create a record. That’s how Boston authorities managed to apprehend the Craigslist Killer, Philip Markoff. Censoring Craigslist moved these activities to locations within the site where there is no paper trail, making it hard for law enforcement to locate and crack down on perpetrators. Continued pressure to remove these sorts of sites altogether (such as that leveled against the Village Voice for Backpage ads at the hands of Ashton Kutcher and the organizations with which his own DNA Foundation is aligned, among them Polaris; Shared Hope International, an organization that fights child sex trafficking by educating men about “the dangers of engaging in commercial sex markets, especially pornography”; and Citizens Against Trafficking, which continuously launches smear campaign against sex educators, whom they believe are the cause of all these problems) will result in moving these activities underground where law enforcement will have an even more difficult time helping victims.

Censoring a site is an easy victory. It gets organizations more money and it gets politicians elected. Never mind that neither of these has actually done anything to help victims. That’s not where it ends, either, unfortunately. The inability of these organizations to see a difference between sex work and trafficking means that efforts to censor will continue beyond sites like Craigslist: pornography is frequently a target and we’re not just talking about nude magazines and independent sites (where do you draw the line? Remember when Lady Chatterley’s Lover was considered obscene?). Sex educators are also consistently attacked, as are any groups whose desires don’t fall into the cookie-cutter moral ideal of what sex should be.

Ignorance on the topic, willful and not, and the willingness of people to exploit this lack of information in pursuit of a moral agenda or political gain results in inaction and very dangerous legislation that affect all victims of slavery.

E. Benjamin Skinner, author of A Crime So Monstrous — an expose about modern day slavery in various forms — has been a vocal advocate of the necessity of not only differentiating between the sex industry and sex trafficking, but also giving the same amount of attention to other forms of slavery, often overshadowed by sensationalism surrounding accounts of sex trafficking:

“The West’s efforts have been, from the outset, hamstrung by a warped understanding of slavery,” he says in A World Enslaved. “Though eradicating prostitution may be a just cause, Western policies based on the idea that all prostitutes are slaves and all slaves are prostitutes belittles the suffering of all victims.”

The inability to see the differences between sex work and slavery thwarts efforts and taxes resources set aside for identifying, freeing and protecting actual victims of slavery, because those working to help victims become diverted with matters of consensual prostitution, which should be handled by local law enforcement as necessary, and which, though a crime in most places, is nowhere as severe as slavery of any kind.

Not for Sale also conflates consensual adult sex work and forced sexual slavery and rape. Their stance against the partial decriminalization of sex work among consenting adults in a 2008 San Francisco ballot initiative more than illustrates their position. Allowing this initiative, known as Proposition K, to pass would have brought the underground to the surface, making it easier for sex workers to work with law enforcement to nab abusers and rapists, and to find real victims of sexual slavery. The moralizing, driven in part by Not for Sale, led to the failure of Proposition K.

So, no. I am not glad that Google is supporting these organizations.”