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Google acts against prostitution app after complaints from Congress

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Google has removed a sex trade app from its Google Play marketplace – but only after pressure from Members of the US Congress.

The Udoopi app bills itself as ‘the first Escorts 2.0 app’ and promises ‘All the paid sex of your city geolocated and always available on your mobile, iPad and computer. JOIN THE SEX CLUB.’ The developers market to students.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, co-founder of the Human Trafficking Caucus, and a New York representative for the Democrats, raised the issue in a letter to Google’s invisible CEO Larry Page published at Firedoglake. The blog, along with Red State, had pursued the issue doggedly.

There's money in such services. At one time Craigslist derived a third of its revenue from sex ads, earning it the title of “the Walmart of sex trafficking”. After being shamed by a TV investigation, Craigslist stopped running prostitution ads in 2010.

Google UK for its part currently displays advertisements for Thai, Russian, Asian and Ukranian ‘mail order brides’.

Rep Maloney and Rep Marsha Blackburn asked Google in April four questions about exploitative advertisements:

1. Apart from Google’s donations to large human rights organizations, what is your company doing internally to ensure that sexually exploitative advertisements do not appear?

2. What is Google’s stated internal policy regarding exploitative advertising? What evidence do you have that those policies are being complied with by both Google’s internal and external advertising sales teams?

3. What steps does Google take to instruct its advertising sales managers, consultants, and other employees regarding the evaluation of advertisers of such exploitative marketing?

4. If Google were to determine that it profits from such advertising, what steps would you take to ensure those profits were publicly disclosed and then disgorged? Would that process require restating Google’s earnings for past securities filings?

The National Association of Attorneys General (pdf) says sites that use Google’s ad network “show the tell-tale signs of trafficked victims” and are not mere ‘online dating’ sites which are permitted by current Google Adwords policies.

Google says it prohibits sex work advertising from its Adwords network and co-operates with law enforcement agencies. ®

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