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LinkedIn: Prostitutes, Escorts Not Kind of Professionals Site Wants

By Mark Holthaus   |   Wednesday, 15 May 2013 03:08 PM

The world's oldest profession isn't welcome at professional networking site LinkedIn, which has updated its privacy policy and user agreement to ban escorts and prostitutes from creating profiles promoting adult services.

Not only was "prostitution" a tagged skill you could select on LinkedIn, at least up to now, there are actually escorts who advertise their services on the professional networking site, Huffington Post reported.

Prostitution was also a "skill" for which you could be endorsed by other users on the site, reported UPI.com.

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Now, according to the revised terms, users may not, "even if it is legal where you are located, create profiles or provide content that promotes escort services or prostitution," according to UPI.

Though some may be surprised that sex workers use the site to build a network of clients from LinkedIn's 200 million users, it's no surprise to the many social media-savvy escorts themselves. CNNMoney last month covered sex workers who use the Internet to grow their businesses.

According to The Inquisitor, numerous profiles currently available on LinkedIn suggest that users are advertising sexual services. Bedroom Eyes Escorts, for example, offers “real girls, real images, real profiles, … real trouble.” Its profile states it is Australia’s number one “Model Companion Agency.” It specializes in females between the ages of 18 and 23.

Online classifieds website Craigslist abruptly closed its "adult services" section in September 2010, following months of pressure from state law enforcement officials and advocacy groups which had charged that they facilitated prostitution.

After the Craigslist shutdown, sex-seeking men increasingly turned to Facebook. Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh found that of the 290 New York City sex workers he studied, 83 percent relied on Facebook to attract customers.

Prostitutes and escort agencies have created hundreds of unrestricted pages on Facebook, according to Britain's The Telegraph, and many of the pages include explicit photographs, descriptions of services alongside phones numbers, addresses and prices.

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Facebook has removed dozens of such pages. The site said it “has a clear set of rules and these pages broke them,” but said it could only take action when offensive items were reported to them by members of the public.

The postings were also reported to Twitter, reported The Telegraph, but the microblogging site declined to take action. Under the company’s rules, content would need to be illegal to be considered in breach of its terms and conditions.

Backpage.com, a website owned by Village Voice Media, last year accounted for about 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five websites that carry such ads in the U.S., reported New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof.

Partly as a result of Backpage.com controversy,  Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said one of its private equity funds agreed to exit a 12-year-old stake in Village Voice Media at a loss because the bank was uncomfortable with the company’s direction.

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