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2nd page of article re: prostituion on the net. 1st page should follow.


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Here's the second page. The first page is in a separate post and should be immediately below this one.

 

ZDNet > ZDNet News Page One > Internet > Prostitution thrives on the Net

 

Prostitution thrives on the Net

 

(part 2)

 

 

UPDATED June 7, 1999 1:18 PM PT Previous page

 

 

A question of priorities

The question of law enforcement priorities is often central to debate over prosecution of prostitution, and the issue already has surfaced in connection with the case of "Nancy of Nebraska," an Omaha woman arrested in January for running an "escort service" in cyberspace.

 

According to testimony at the trial of Nancy Prout, 46, a vice squad officer posing as a visiting businessman arranged a date with her, had a limo to pick her up and drive her to the airport, where he emerged from a waiting Lear jet. Then, after serving her several glasses of Asti Spumante during the ride back to his hotel, he took her to his room and offered her cash in exchange for sex.

 

No sooner did Prout agree, according to the testimony, than six police officers burst into the room with guns drawn and placed her under arrest.

 

Though it turned out the limo and jet were donated for use in the sting, a taxpayers group has accused the Omaha vice squad of going to excessive lengths to dismantle Prout's one-woman operation.

 

"The Nebraska Taxpayers Association does not condone what Nancy Prout did or is doing with her Web site," said the organization's president, John Folsom. "Our position is that the police department ... were not good stewards with the taxpayers' dollars in spending the resources that were spent to have her arrested on a misdemeanor charge."

 

Prout was sentenced to four months probation, an $800 fine and 48 hours of community service.

 

Eliminating the middle man

Not surprisingly, such tactics also are viewed as excessive by prostitutes, who say the Internet gives them the ability to take control of their financial situation and eliminate the middle man.

 

'The vast majority of women that we're talking about around the world are much closer to conditions of slavery.'

-- Donna M. Hughes, director of women's studies at the University of Rhode Island.

 

 

"I was without a job, then worked briefly for $5 an hour while I was going to graduate school and working on my master's," Rachel, who set up her own Web site to advertise her escort service in the Midwest, told MSNBC. "I just wasn't making ends meet so I thought 'I'll try this.' "

 

After initially placing an advertisement on a Web site that hosts numerous escort ads, she learned HTML and designed and built her own home page, which drew an average of 10 to 20 inquiries a day from potential customers.

 

"I learned a lot about working for myself, marketing, sales," said Rachel, who spoke on condition she not be identified by her real name.

 

But others say that few prostitutes are in a position to take advantage of the technology.

 

"There are so few ... women who are in control of what's happening to them," said Donna M. Hughes, director of women's studies at the University of Rhode Island. "And I think the idea that there are lots of high-class call girls out there that are total in control of their own lives is either a myth or only represents a very tiny minority of the women. The vast majority of women that we're talking about around the world are much closer to conditions of slavery."

 

The worldwide sex trade

Hughes, who has studied the Internet's role in furthering prostitution as education and research coordinator for The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, a consulting agency to the United Nations, said that traffickers in sex have been quick to utilize the benefits of the Net.

 

She said that in addition to prostitutes and pimps, the sex tourism industry, which organizes trips centered around visits to brothels in countries like the Philippines and Thailand, and some so-called mail-order bride operations are using the Web and news groups to attract. In many cases, she said, their advertising is "encoded" in order to avoid scrutiny from authorities, but it's clear what product they are offering. 'Many law enforcement agencies don't even know how to address crime on the Internet, let alone prove whether a child is above or below the age of consent in the country where they live.'

-- Pete Hampton, Web Police founder

 

She said attempts to persuade U.S. authorities to prosecute two companies offering such tours have so far been unsuccessful.

 

One of the most degrading uses of the Net, Hughes said, is a newsgroup in which customers rate prostitutes' performance "as if they are completely a commodity."

 

Hughes said that the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has recommended that all forms of sexual exploitation -- including pornography -- be considered human rights violations and that action be taken to halt them, "just as we are now taking actions to try to stop the battering of women and sexual abuse or sexual assault of women."

 

"The view that we take is not to just see this as some sort of speech or expression, but to go what is happening to the women," she said. "No one talks about prostitution as being a form of free speech. It's an actual act that happens. And whether a man is paying a woman in a room or whether he's paying over the Internet, nonetheless he is buying some sort of an act. Therefore we don't see that as being in the realm of free speech."

 

A Constitutional conflict

But Shari Steele, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said such an approach would not pass muster in the United States.

 

"At least in the United States, there are numerous laws at both the federal and state level to deal with pornography," she said. "Obscenity is really the purview of the states to make a determination whether it is permitted or not. Indecency is federal protected under the U.S. Constitution. Child pornography is absolutely illegal. So any call for there being extra restrictions are really going to run afoul of the First Amendment here in the United States."

 

The biggest obstacles to prosecution of international prostitution rings are the patchwork of laws and customs governing sale of sexual services and the Internet, said Hampton of the Web Police.

 

"Many law enforcement agencies don't even know how to address crime on the Internet, let alone prove whether a child is above or below the age of consent in the country where they live," he said.

 

With concerted international action unlikely in the foreseeable future, prosecution of Internet-based prostitution rings and individual escorts, massage practitioners and other euphemistically named sex practitioners appears likely to increase in fits and starts as local police agencies become more aware of what is being sent out to the world from their own back yard.

 

But Donna, the chatroom undercover volunteer, is certain of one thing: No matter how much heat is turned on online "johns," she is in no danger of having to find another way to spend her evening hours.

 

"In almost every case ... when it's time for the meeting, they get nervous and they'll say, 'I hope to God you're not a cop, but I can’t not meet you.' "Previous page / Prostitution thrives on the Net

 

See also: Internet section

 

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