Report shines light on prostitution on Twitter

It's no secret that social media and illicit behavior go hand in hand, but a new report out by TheStreet is calling attention to one particular aspect of that connection: the prostitution and escort services advertised on Twitter (TWTR).

The services appear to violate Twitter's rules, which say that user tweets cannot be used for unlawful purposes or to further illegal activities, TheStreet reports. The company also bans pornographic images from user backgrounds and header photos.

TheStreet told New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith about the questionable Twitter accounts, and Smith asked Congress this week to investigate the issue further. He's a member of a congressional subcommittee that held hearings this week on prostitution at sporting events ahead of this week's Super Bowl in New Jersey

There is some doubt, by the way, that any sex trafficking at Super Bowl games even exists. Salon reports that local authorities at the games in Phoenix, Tampa and Miami saw no increase in prostitution arrests. Furthermore, a 2011 report from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women said there is "no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution."

But back to Twitter, which now finds itself in a rather uncomfortable spotlight after TheStreet's investigation. More than a thousand Twitter accounts offer services ranging from private escorts to dominatrix sessions, according to the report.

And it isn't just Twitter, either. As Forbes notes, Facebook has plenty of prostitution pages of its own, with raunchy photos and videos to boot. And Google (GOOG) is an easy place to start to look up prostitution services. Craigslist and Backpage have also been popular places to advertise services.

So how does Congress start investigating this and how far do lawmakers want to go? As Forbes' Jeff Bercovici writes, "platforms that have hundreds of millions of users will always host more illegal and unsavory activity than they can keep up with."

Twitter did not respond to a request by CBS MoneyWatch for comment about the TheStreet's report. But so far the company doesn't seem too worried. One of the Twitter accounts highlighted in the report was still up and running Thursday, with images that clearly violated the rules.
  • Kim Peterson

    Kim Peterson is a financial journalist covering business and the economy. She has written for several online and print publications, including MSN Money and The Seattle Times.