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Potentialprostitutes.com, the latest in sketchy Internet extortion schemes, posts women’s names, photos and phone numbers—unless the victims pay a fee to have them taken down.
Pop quiz: How many times have you been called a ho? How many times has someone claimed, so colloquially, that you accept money for sex—that you’re a call girl, a bawd, a hooker, a prostitute?
Now, how many times has that improper denotation played out over the Internet? And how many times has a record of your whorishness been plastered onto a website where your name and its factually inaccurate association will stand in infamy until you pay that site an upfront cost of $100?
If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it very well could.
That’s because there’s a new slut shaming site on the Internet called Potential Prostitutes, a hybrid Busted! Mugshots-cum-IsAnybodyDown-style site that allows anonymous individuals to submit personal information for third parties they’d like to connote as prostitutes, a profession that’s illegal in 49 of America’s 50 states.
The site does little more than implicate individuals—almost exclusively women, though nothing on the site says that a submission has to involve a woman—as prostitutes, and it’s getting a lot of heat for the role it’s playing as a potential facility for libelous speech. If you think about it, I could personally submit a name, photo, location and phone number for free for any individual on my Bad List and forever—or until they pay up—label that person a prostitute, something that would affect the way they go about getting new jobs, foster new relationships, and basically live a normal life.
How’s this even possible? According to Potential Prostitutes, the answer lies in the Communications Decency Act, which protects site owners from legal action based on what its users submit. It’s the same act that allows sites like IsAnybodyDown and Hunter Moore’s IsAnyoneUp to exist—and, as Forbes law blogger Kashmir Hill has explained, it’s the same law that protects sites like Facebook and Twitter from being liable for everything their users post—so long as the posted subjects are 18.
The law implies that individuals can’t sue the owners of Potential Prostitutes for anything that shows up on site. They can only go after the submitters. But as the site’s submission page quickly shows, there’s absolutely no need to submit your own personal information when you’re indicting another individual as a prostitute. Submissions can be made anonymously.
So what can you do if your name and mug shows up the site? If you want it removed, your only option is to pay up. Site admins—who registered the domain under the name of imprisoned Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm, apparently as a joke—will remove your name and information from the site within 60 minutes.
Of course, that does nothing to help the fact that your listing will still show up on search engines until site spiders stop tracking your entry. And that could take weeks, months, or even years.
In other words, good luck out there. And don’t cross anybody who’s ever called you a ho.
Potential Prostitutes did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Photo via Potential Prostitutes
Chase Hoffberger reported on YouTube, web culture, and crime for the Daily Dot until 2013, when he joined the Austin Chronicle. Until late 2018, he served as that paper’s news editor and reported on criminal justice and politics.