Utoopi

It would be awfully difficult for Google to continue its mission of worldwide domination of the online advertising market and not be a player in one of its most lucrative sectors, sex advertising.

It’s been five months since Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Marsha Blackburn sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking him to explain how Google polices the sale of Adwords ads to human sex traffickers.

Google’s response was to promote its Google Ideas Initiative, which burnishes its image with NGO’s working in the field but really didn’t address its own role in profiting from advertizing of what they acknowledge is an annual $2.1 trillion industry.  Or what they’re doing to limit the use of Google’s networks in its perpetuation.

Now the issue raises its ugly head again, in the form of the Utoopi App carried on Google’s Android marketplace.  MusicTechPolicy notes that the App promotes itself thusly:

All the paid sex of your city geolocated and always available on your mobile, iPad and computer.  JOIN THE SEX CLUB.

The issue of sex trafficking of minors is hyped all too frequently by culture warriors and law enforcement to restrain civil rights and hound those engaged in what is a legal and regulated profession in many parts of the world.  But human sex trafficking is nonetheless a real problem that grows when its perpetrators have access to global online networks.

When asked about what they’re doing to prevent illegal traffickers from gaining access to their networks, Google has responded by issuing vague statements about “specially trained teams,” “working with law enforcement” and the “latest technology.”  But the $11.5 million they recently gave to groups fighting against human sex slavery has the appearance of buying off critics rather than actually dealing with the underlying problem.

In a statement today issued to Bytegeist about the Utoopi App, Rep. Maloney says:

It is appalling beyond belief that someone would try to market an ‘app’ like Utoopi, which is about illegal escort services plain and simple.

Google must live up to its own stated promise to ban the promotion of sex services by immediately removing Utoopi from the Android ‘app’ marketplace hosted by Google.

A real utopia would be a society in which major corporations like Google take responsibility for preventing their platforms from being hijacked by those who would market the bodies of young women and men to the highest bidder.

As Breeanne Howe notes, Google AdWords Terms of Service specifically prohibits “the promotion of escort services, prostitution, or other adult sexual services.”   Android Apps certainly aren’t part of Google AdWords, but it’s hard to see how Google is applying any kind of consistent policy.

Former Congresswoman Susan Molinari has been hired by Google to head up government relations in their DC office.  I contacted Rep. Molinari and offered her the opportunity to respond to Congresswoman Maloney’s statement.  They told me to send an email to “[email protected]”  As of 2:30 pm ET they have not responded.

Update: Google has removed the Utoopi App from Google Play.