Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano has confirmed that Google has pulled the Utoopi Android App from Google Play, which offered “all the paid sex of your city geogargeted.” It was clearly aimed at young sex workers who could “alternate between their studies or work and their services as escorts in complete privacy.”
Unlike Apple, Google does not pre-approve apps it offers on Google Play, which is some cases can be a good thing. I wasn’t exactly overjoyed when Apple refused to approve the Drone+ App for their App Store, which sent users a pop-up notice “whenever a flying robots kills someone in one of America’s many undeclared wars.”
But sex advertizing is a very lucrative business, especially since Craigslist got out of the market. Craigslist sex ad revenues alone were projected to be $36 million for 2010, but they closed up shop after 14 members of the Gambino crime family were charged with selling girls between 15-19 through ads through the site.
Google repeatedly claims that they are using the most sophisticated technology to keep AdWords from being used to traffic underage kids, but if so, it seems like they could’ve extended it to identify an Android app that clearly had the words “paid sex,” “escort” and “students” written on the main page of the website.
Now that big players like Craigslist and The Village Voice have been pushed out of the sex advertising marketplace, the Utoopi episode has the appearance of Google not looking too hard in order to sweep up the business they left behind.
It’ll be interesting to see if the FBI targets organized crime for advertising underage sex workers on Google. Somehow I don’t see that happening.