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Pimps and Predators on the Internet
Globalizing Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children


The Sex Industry and the Internet Industry









The Internet industry exists today because of the prostitution industry. The pimps and buyers on the Internet are funding the development and expansion of the commercial Internet. In fact the pimps and buyers are also contributing heavily to the whole computer industry.

A male exhibitor at the Adultdex, a trade show for the online prostitution industry, who chose to remain anonymous, made this comment:

"The whole Internet is being driven by the adult industry. If all this [referring to products at an online prostitution industry trade show] were made illegal tomorrow, the Internet would go back to being a bunch of scientists discussing geek stuff in e-mail."[227]

The sex industry is among the top five groups buying state of the art computer equipment.[228] The high tech industries don’t like to admit or talk about how they are being supported by the pornography and prostitution industries. A high level technician for the film industry, another buyer of state-of-art computer technology, admits that many companies that brag about their capacities to create computer special effects for the film industry also do a good business with the pornographers and online pimps. It comes down to money,"if someone comes to us with a cheque for US$250,000….."[229]

One of the largest Internet companies in the world, Digex, has Microsoft as its largest customer; its second largest customer is from the sex industry.[230] The Internet industry will not admit to the pervasiveness of pornography on the Internet because it profits enormously from the pornography industry. Web page owners, owners of search engines, and Internet Service Providers make a lot of money selling advertising for the sex industry.

The sex industry has been setting the pace on many new enhancements to doing business on the Web. Entrepreneurs eyeing the Web as a site of future investment were told by mainstream computer industry advisors to use sex industry sites as their guide.

"If you haven’t visited a pornography Web shop in a while, you should. It will show you the future of online commerce…Web pornographers are the most innovative entrepreneurs on the Internet." [231]

Pimps on the Internet are on the cutting edge of online payment schemes with credit cards. At the beginning of 1995, only a few sites were accepting credit card payments by email. In early 1996, Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), a leader of the Internet sex industry introduced "ecommerce software," which provided buyers with fast, secure, online credit card transactions.[232] Privacy is one of the main attractions that Internet pornography and prostitution sites have for many buyers. They can browse and buy whenever they want and usually in total privacy. Men also want assurances that their credit card numbers are secure. The sex industry has excelled in introducing secure payment schemes over the Web. The sex industry also needs to have payment transactions occur quickly, because sex industry sites depend on men’s impulse buying once they access the sites. So the easier and faster it is for buyers to supply credit details, the easier and faster it is for the sex industry to collect money. One Internet pimp has started a new company, Interfund Financial Services to facilitate "impulse friendly" buying, and offer more privacy than credit card purchases. Buyers will be able to charge the time online to their phone bill or have their bank account debited directly.[233]

The Internet industry publicly avoids acknowledging or denies the influence of the pornographers and pimps on the Internet industry because the two have become dependent on one another and are now collaborators. All the large Internet service providers (ISPs) are dependent on the sex industry for their profits.[234] The Electronic Frontier Foundation admits they regularly give legal advice to operators of pornographic sites on the legality of their operations.[235]

Sex Industry and Internet Search Engines

Soon after the sex industry went online, the promotional value of search engines was realized. On December 19, 1994, The Shrimp Club, an organization of men who live or travel in Southeast Asia, set up a Web site to give men an information network for events, parties and products that featured Asian women. As part of their promotional strategy they sent advertisements to newsgroups, such as alt.sex.fetish.orientals, and made sure that their Web site was archived in web search engines. This aggressive marketing through search engines got them 15,000 accesses to their Web site in the first week.[236] It was a strategy to be adopted by all sex industry businesses on the Internet.

Search engines are the indexing system for the World Wide Web. Search engines, such as WebCrawler, HotBot, Excite, InfoSeek, and Lycos, search tens of thousands of Web sites per day, picking up keywords placed in the html code, and from the content of the text. Users of the search engines depend on the comprehensiveness and accuracy of search engines, which varies widely from engine to engine, to find material anywhere on the Web when they enter keywords.

Analyses of the keywords entered into Web search engines reveals what subjects are being sought for on the Web. In 1995, a study of the searches on one Web search engine found that 47 percent of the 11,000 most-repeated searches were for pornography. The study also found that one in ten businesses using the Web at that time sold pornography.[237]

The sex industry manipulates, exploits, and pays the search engines a lot of money to make sure that the general public finds their sites. Although owners of search engines like to distance themselves from the sex industry and responsibility for the availability of pornography, Robert Davis, the President of Lycos, the popular search engine, criticized their hypocrisy. At the Internet Summit in December 1997, he said that owners of search engines accept advertising from the sex industry on their Web sites. Lycos, does not.[238]

Pornography Web site owners exploit any public event to draw Web traffic to their site. Whenever a topic is popular, the pornographers put a keyword on their Web sites that someone is likely to be using to search for information. They then prime the search engines, using special promotional software, to get their sites listed in the first few that come up when someone does a search.

One of the most well known examples of this was the use of the keywords "Princess Diana" to draw traffic to pornography web sites after Princess Diana died in a car crash in August 1997. Anyone entering "Princess Diana" into a search engine was given not only a list of sites that had information about her life and death, but also a list of pornography Web sites, often listed before the legitimate sites. I used one of the popular search engines to look-up "Princess Diana." The first site listed was:

"PRINCESS DIANA NUDE EATING PUSSY!!! CHECK OUT THIS LINK FOR SOME HOT SEX! cocksucker the sex girls a sensual applegate. Celeberties the babe the nude mpegs and porno. Story, teen porn."

When I followed this link I found violent, degrading pornography. The pornographers put sensational, exploitative and violent images out for this occasion. On the first page there were four images: 1) a breast torture picture with the woman’s breasts bound and many clothespins attached to the breast; 2) several pictures of women with ejaculate on their faces; 3) a picture of a woman with her entire hand inserted in another woman’s vagina; and 4) a transsexual-man with penis and breast implants.

Other pornographers were exploiting Diana’s name, but were not promising photos. This pornographer put her name on his page so that when someone searched for "Princess Diana," his web site would be included in the results.

"BEST OF ADULT WEBSITES - (No Princess Diana here), Free adult images, live streaming adult video, sexy streaming chat. Daily free large pictures, 5 minutes free video. A selection of books without Princess Diana A Tribute to Diana"

Egregious examples like this bring bad publicity to the Internet industry, so one search engine, AltaVista, owned by Digital, tried to intervene by removing the pornographic sites from their index. The pornographers quickly renamed their sites and aggressively pushed their Web sites into the search engine, resulting in a battle between pornographers and the AltaVista. Digital said they were monitoring their index "on a half-hour basis," to try to keep the pornography sites out of listings for Princess Diana.[239]

In March 1998, a new Internet product designed to simplify URLs and searching on the Web was launched by centraal of Palo Alto, California, but somehow the sex industry intervened. Using centraal’s new system Web users could type topics into the address line without using the long, complex URLs. Walt Disney, one of centraal’s customers, was featured in the launch of the new product that was supposed to be so simple a child could use it. Unfortunately, something went wrong; when a user typed in a Disney character, such as "Bambi," she landed on a pornography site with whips and chains. Keith Teare, president of the company, said he had no idea how the requests were misdirected.[240]


The case of CNET’s online service Snap demonstrates the reliance of search engines on the sex industry to stay in business.

In December 1997, coinciding with the Focus on Children Internet Summit in Washington, D.C., CNET announced Snap Online service, a Web directory safe for children (http://www.snap.com). The Snap search engine was advertised as having no pornographic Web sites in its directory. In the press release, CNET said, "Snap Online does not accept any pornographic advertising, nor does it contain pornographic listings in its directory of more than 100,000 hand-selected Web sites." CNET chairman Halsey

Minor touted Snap saying, "Parents now have a valuable resource at their fingertips to help safeguard their children from inappropriate materials." Nine months later, in August 1998, CNET announced that Snap would be including pornographic Web sites in its directory, and admitted that pornographic sites could be found through Snap for sometime. Anyone searching for pornography on Snap would automatically be rolled over to the search engines Infoseek and Inktomi, which index pornography.[241]

Snap’s executive producer, Katharine English, defended the decision by saying, "Our statistics show that 40 percent of our users are looking for this kind of material. This is a user-driven decision." The decision was rationalized by pointing out that since all other search engines indexed sex industry sites, they had to as well. Katharine English said, "If you search for bestiality, you’ll find it there. It’s not like we’re standing out. … We’re trying to take a neutral position on pornography. It’s out there, it’s available."

The decision was based on money, of course. The service lost US$3.68 million in the first quarter of 1998, on revenues of US$2.52 million. In July 1998 CNET moved into a joint venture with NBC, and Snap’s money loosing venture had to go. Pornographic advertising banners on search engines are the "cash cow," or certain moneymakers, for the Web search engines and indexes. The owner of a Web site, search engine, or Web directory, is paid each time a viewer clicks on an advertisement on that page. Advertisers pay in the range of 12 cents to US$1 per click. Eventually, that adds up to a lot of money.[242]

Self-Regulation of the Internet





Published by The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, 1999
Donna M. Hughes, dhughes@uri.edu