"Potential Prostitutes" site lets users label women as prostitutes, charges "removal" fees

Potential Prostitutes is only the latest sleazy site to wed personal photos to public humiliation. Its offer to publicize anonymous claims of sex crimes, however, is a novelty: any woman may be be anonymously tagged as a prostitute.

The site accepts anonymous submissions through an online form and promises to post uploads in a browsable "offender" database seeded with mugshots of convicted prostitutes. Entries may be removed by those listed—so long as they pay a hefty removal fee.

Along with Predators Watch, a nearly-identical sister site aimed at "potential" sex predators, it's part of a growing fad for shakedowns that exploit public records, police mugshots, compromising Facebook photos and other embarrassing personal information.

This one differs in how closely it resembles official sex offender registries—and the aggressiveness with which it targets women.

But like other operators, it claims that U.S. laws indemnify it for the actions of its users. Though it solicits material it knows could be libelous or defamatory, it says it has no obligation to remove claims, even when they are proven to be false. It even reports that it's been sued -- and that it has won every case.

"That’s a lie," writes Kenneth White, a lawyer who regularly debunks legal falsity at his popular blog, Popehat. "The site was registered in October 2012. It’s part of the stock language such sites use."

According to their domain name records, the sites were registered to a P.O. Box in Stockholm, Sweden, in the last few weeks. The named registrant might well be a red herring—any information can be entered into the records, and no-one from the site has yet replied to inquiries placed earlier today.

Its Twitter feed consists only of a burst of links to prostitution stings and scandals from early November. Status People reports that only 6 percent of its followers are "good", the rest being fake or inactive accounts.

The site's Facebook page -- itself suspiciously close to exactly 10,000 likes -- is already plastered with removal demands and accusations of fraud.

"You're pathetic for posting just anyone on your website. You even post pictures of kids?", wrote one annoyed Facebook user.

"If my 11 year old son gets one more text from someone looking to hook up I will sue you," claims another.

When the site's owners come forward or are tracked down, White writes that Section 230—the part of the law referred to by the site's operators—might not be as strong a defense as they expect.

"Courts are still determining application of Section 230 to extortion sites, [but] even the most generous application of Section 230 wouldn’t apply if the 'user submission' was a hoax – if the purveyors of the site were themselves the ones populating it with pictures under the guise of users doing it. That’s something that would come out in discovery in any case. There’s reason to question whether the content is actually user-submitted, or whether the purveyors put it in themselves, when a brand-new site appears already populated with content."

"Moreover, Section 230 is not a defense to criminal charges. Extortion is a crime in many states, and a federal crime to the extent it uses interstate communication. Similarly, to the extent the site makes deliberately false statements of fact to extort money, its purveyors may have committed fraud, which is both a state and federal crime."


      1. Yep, filing a lawsuit and seeing it through the legal system is an EXTREMELY lengthy and expensive process. See lots of comments of people saying “why not just sue” like it is as simple as doing your laundry.

      2.  And do women, on average, have enough money to fight back with litigation? Nope. This is horrid, and I am rallying some help right now to stop this shit. RIGHT. NOW.

        1.  Women are not the only people being targeted – men can be prostitutes as well – but I am more bothered by your assumptions regarding women’s finances. I’m with you on stopping this simply because it’s wrong to subject ANY human to this…but not all women are as poor or destitute as your post seems to imply.

          1. This is willful ignorance in service to some sort of spurious notion that equality exists.
            Not sure if you bothered to even look at the site before posting, but it targets disadvantaged women. But in your abstracted theoretical reality, just because someone who’s not a women can be posted on this site excuses the fact that women are disproportionately represented?

          2. Nonsense, it doesn’t target disadvantaged women. ‘Disadvantaged women’ can’t pay up. It targets anyone who so desperately fears a mark against them that they’d rather pay the small fee for removal than consider taking them to court.

          3. Women are only disproportionately represented on the prostitute site because men are disproportionately targeted on the sister site “Predators Watch.”

            These are twin sites, rather. One targeting women. One targeting men — each with an accusation tailored to that gender.

            While being accused of being a sex offender (in my opinion) carries a worse stigma than being accused of being a prostitute, men and women (again, IMO) were each targeted with an accusation where the mud is thought to stick easiest, where the accusation alone is likely to plant that “no smoke without fire” seed of doubt in people’s minds.

            Whether these sites are real or hoax, both men and women have been targeted. It’s just that the writer chose for some reason to focus only on the site targeting women.

          4. On average, women still make less than men do. And please don’t bring up the canard about “because they choose low-paying jobs” or “because they have babies” (as if the latter is a reason), because those have been debunked.

          5. I have seen more reports that show that conservative areas and maternity leave are the largest detractors in the pay statistic.

            Basically, what I’m saying is, unless you can pony up evidence, your claims are nothing more than a hollow conjecture.

        2. I know seriously.  I’m white, male, and college educated I obviously make six figures.  *eye roll*

          My wife makes more than me, except for a single year she always has.  While I’m sure the statistics still say otherwise it isn’t the 1950’s.

    1.  In some states, you have to have a witness testify they heard the plaintiff say they knew the allegations were a lie & they were going to say it anyway.

        1. “You’re thinking of “slander” – a different, but similar offense.  Libel = printed or pictured defamation, Slander = spoken defamation.”

          Except it isn’t actually that black and white. The two were fairly distinct back when speech was fleeting and print was not. And speech was to a few people but print was not. The internet messes with those distinctions. A back and forth discussion on a web forum, for instance, has more of the character of slander than libel. In any case, “defamation” is the overarching claim.

      1.  “Most … people … can’t hire a lawyer.”

        Hope you don’t mind that I fixed that.

        Legal system for hire or rent. High bidders only, please.

        1. Justice is blind – she sees neither gender nor race, but only dollar signs….

          I lament this fact. 

    2. They can sue, under a number of causes (extortion, libel being two of the common law causes) they’d likely win. The issue is that the assholes behind sites like this are generally broke and thus judgment proof.

      I recall hearing an NPR story about a similar site that charged money for people to have their pictures and information removed. There was an attorney working pro bono for victims who had been very successful at getting takedowns, less so at recovering any judgments.

    3. The Streisand effect applies.  Sue the site owner and you end up in legal databases – and probably many thousands of news sites and blogs – as an alleged prostitute.

      1. Pretty much my thought, extortion is criminal. Doing it on the web means you’re commiting crimes in a vast number of jurisdictions.

          1. Actually the idea of flooding it with submissions doesn’t seem bad to me. Why not invent the people submitted?

          2. I don’t think having Mickey Mouse on the site would really detract enough from “KNOWN PROSTITUTE” coming up from the first page of searching your fullname on Google.

      1. No, Politicians’s families should not be used like that. Politicians themselves, however, are another story. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% of all politicians (at natl level) are definitely guilty of prostituting themselves for campaign money (even though the medium of exchange is not typically sex), whereas probably about 99.99% of the women being targeted by this despicable website are definitely not prostitutes of any kind.

      2. Awesome, let’s punish women for their male relatives’ misdeeds. I mean, they’re just property, right?


  1. The whole set up is sketchy. They’re really brazen with their assertions.

    “All of our offenders have been reported by local members who feel these offenders should be taught a lesson before their actions escalate.”

    It’s funny that they know and feel confident in asserting the motives of the people doing the reporting.

    Not to mention that it’s a payment to remove a profile that could just be put up again.

    And how exactly do they determine “active” status? They’d have to investigate the individuals to find that out, which means they’d have to know more about the accused and that would put them into the position of vouching for the veracity of the claims.

    The most interesting part is that the removal is “if you believe you were wrongfully accused.” It’s not removal of profiles that have been confirmed as having been charged or convicted. That’s libel and extortion right there.

  2. the sites were registered to a P.O. Box in Stockholm, Sweden, in the last few weeks. The named registrant might well be a red herring

    I see what you did there.

  3. The language about them being sued and winning lawsuits is taken directly from Ripoff Report’s FAQ pages, FYI.

    1. Potential Prostitutes:Because we will not remove reports, PotentialProstitutes.com has been sued on many occasions based on the content which our users have created and posted. If you are considering suing PotentialProstitutes.com because of a profile which you claim is defamatory, you should be aware that to date, PotentialProstitutes.com has never lost such a case. This is because of a federal law called the Communications Decency Act or “CDA”, 47 U.S.C. § 230. Because this important law is not well known, we want to take a moment to explain the law, and to also explain that the filing of frivolous lawsuits can have serious consequences for those who file them, both parties and their attorneys. ”


      “Because we will not remove reports, Ripoff Report has been sued on many occasions based on the content which our users have created and posted. If you are considering suing Ripoff Report because of a report which you claim is defamatory, you should be aware that to date, Ripoff Report has never lost such a case (with one exception; explained below). This is because of a federal law called the Communications Decency Act or “CDA”, 47 U.S.C. § 230. Because this important law is not well known, we want to take a moment to explain the law, and to also explain that the filing of frivolous lawsuits can have serious consequences for those who file them, both parties and their attorneys.”

    1. This is way outside their purview.  The ACLU protects civil liberties.  They’re much more likely to defend the website than to sue it.

      Actually what needs to happen is the DOJ needs to investigate, follow the money, and bring fraud charges. And it might be happening – they are pretty quiet while building a case. The women who have been slandered should contact their reps in Congress. That would get the ball rolling.

        1. Free speech is, though…and until it’s fought, tooth and nail in court, and a legal decision handed down, that’s really all it is – free speech…

          1. I don’t know… if “Don’t date him” or whatever that site was came down because of slander charges it seems like blatant extortion like this could be.

        2. “I’m not sure extortion is a civil liberty.”

          And we’re not suggesting the extorters call the ACLU either. They won’t take either case.

  4. I wonder how long until the proprietors of this extortion website end up dead in a dumpster?  The hunt is on, that’s for sure.

    Not that I’ll feel sorry for them or anything…

  5. I strongly support both these sites, as long as they currently list every single US Senator and Congressman.

    But otherwise not.

  6. This is just appalling and I hope the feds or ANY type of law enforcement comes down hard on whoever is behind this. They need to send a strong and firm message that these types of scams won’t be tolerated. Otherwise you will see these things keep popping up because it’s a low cost source of potentially huge profits.

  7. I suspect this site is going to be really self-limiting, since it relies on either (a) their accusations having even a shred of credibility, which they never will or (b) people failing to realize (a) in their panic at seeing themselves exposed. It’s going to be one of those 419-style operations, where the valid prey population will probably stay pretty small no matter how many thousands or millions they _try_ to target.

    But if it does end up being a threat and anyone ever needs a hand flooding it with bizarre and annoying spam, I would be delighted to volunteer. n.n

    1. “I suspect this site is going to be really self-limiting”

      Why are you assuming that this site is based on any principles besides “give me your fucking money”?

  8. Not knowing better, many readers tend to take what some attorney says at face value. For an extortion claim to succeed you would need to have a threat. Posting stuff isn’t a threat. Accepting money when someone wants to pay you for something legitimately published isn’t either. Does the website has any obligation to take stuff off after it was published? Of course not.

    Libel/slander claims, those can only work against the person who posted (submitted), if untrue and in all likelihood limited to actual damages. Not a walk in the park on this one either.

  9. The only advice I can give victims to this scam is simply to ignore it. Paying them only makes things worse, as money is what they are after, nothing else, which is the driver for all kinds of blackmail. The Monty Python sketch about the TV show that charged for adultery comes to mind.

    Yet, the domain information is probably correct for reaching PeriQ Networks, which is a start for law enforcement. PeriQ has been used by Wikileaks and Pirate Bay, so it’s clearly in connection with (more or less criminal) hackers. Hence start there. Force them to shut down the site and lock the domain so it can’t be used again.

  10. Looking at the site, many of the images & numbers are taken from the escort section of Backpage.

    So instead of an extortion site, it’s advertising for prostitutes masquerading as a Hunter Moore wannabe outrage site.

    1. I agree.

      Did anyone actual look into any of this?  I’m not being some asshole white privileged male here.  Here is a “profile” from potential prostitutes:


      Notice the phone number: 7047800222

      Doing a google search on that yields these hits:

      Most use the same profile picture.  So are we going to expound the outrage to all these other sites, which obviously are targeting innocent women here?

      I’m not saying the potential prostitutes website can’t be used in a harmful way, but don’t gloss over all this saying all these women are innocent victims.

      When women come forward and tell their side of dealing with this site and being wrongly accused I will be more interested in it.  As it sits right now it seems more like a thinly veiled site for prostitution.

      1.  I think the main reason why this is a big deal isn’t so much the “we’re calling these people prostitutes” thing. Calling people prostitutes is practically an internet pass-time and as you say, there are many other sites that do this same thing. I think it has more to do with the fact that you have to pay to have your name and information removed from the site.

  11. Apparently, the domain is registered by Gottfrid Swartholm of PirateBay fame like so many other questionable sites. 

      1. Is it the US government’s fault that people traffic drugs over the US Interstate/Highway System?   No…. 

        Should the US government stop providing roads to the citizens just because some people use them todo illegal or deplorable things? No….

        Is it Gottfrid Swartholm’s fault people do shitting things with his ISP’s anonymously registered websites?   No….

        Is anonymity something that should be valued and protected, even if some people are shitty and take advantage of said anonymity to do shitty things? I believe Yes, very much so…

        You have to take the good with the bad for true freedom

        What this website ‘says’ is garbage. Its deplorable. But the reason it exists at all is actually a net positive. The ability to register anonymous websites is a good thing overall. Unless you’d prefer to live in Nazi Germany?

        I am not defending this website, you’re just raising your pitchfork at the wrong person. Gottfrid Swartholm is a modern day folk hero and purveyor of freedom. He has nothing todo with this website ultimately.

        1. Allowing for your contention then, the man needs to protect his reputation, in this case, and take action against this sort of thing since it is unjust.

    1. What you meant to say was:  The domain was registered by Gottfrid Swartholm’s company, that is an ISP, that registers websites and domains for a wide verity of clients, with an emphasis on anonymity…  Its not like he personally registered it like you imply, or even has any responsibility for it whatsoever.

      What he does is a very noble pursuit in this day and age, even if slimey sites like this work their way through the system. You have to take the good with the bad in these situations for true freedom.  This is why TOR is such a double edged sword.   Tons of child porn, but tons of freedom.   Good/Bad  It’ll always exist in all great things, as long as human nature has anything to say about it.

      This would be like accusing the US government of sex trafficking  because they built the interstate highway system that people drive on. Lots of illegal shit happens on US Highways. Its not the government’s fault for providing the roads though.

      Just like its not Gottfrid Swartholm’s fault people do shitty things with anonymously registered websites through his ISP. I for one value anonymity, and accept the fact that some people will use it for evil. Some people disagree that this is a good thing. I’d say they’re wrong and shortsighted.

  12. What if an organization accuses me of stealing its property, say a couple of songs or a movie, and threatens legal action unless I pay up… that’s not extortion, right?

  13. PRQ is about as bullet proof a host as you can get, not only do they not bow down at the first strongly worded letter  they will take the fight to court on your behalf.  They are known for hosting content others will not.

    This sounds like the next evolution of the scam that was being run by the moron behind is any body down dot com.  broken on purpose.
    They were getting peoples pics and then offering a “lawyers” services to get the picture removed for a fee.  Except there was no lawyer, and once real lawyers got interested the word lawyer disappeared from the scam.
    I am unsure if Marc Randazza ever found a client willing to sue the basement living pond scum who dreamed up the website with his buddy.  He was having a very bad day once his history of being a cam whore for cash was brought up by some lovely people who hate bullies.  The fact there was a compiled set of dox on him after a run in with some Anons just waiting to be found should show the level of intelligence.
    This is yet another trendy scam profiting from the fear of reputational damage.  I’d be more worried about people who go to this site and judge me than being on the site.  Its one thing to end up on it, it is totally another to give them traffic and support by believing them.

      1. Federally under the RICO act for starters. That stands for Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. There are probably also state laws that may apply depending on where the website originates and where the victim lives. Any victim should start with their county prosecutor’s office at least.

        1.  Okay, but is that a Swedish law or an American one? ‘Cos from what I understood from the article and the “.se” domain name, this is a Swedish site. Which means American laws don’t apply.

    1. Because we aren’t an ultra rich guy in FL who purchased a Judge to give an order that other people can’t even think bad thoughts about him.

  14. This is what you reply with to glibertarians who tell you that there should be no limits on free speech, period.

  15. 1. What does a prostitute look like? I’ve met many of them through my work and they look all different ways.

    2. If they are capitalizing on stigmas against prostitutes then surely they are non-hypocritical and have never partaken in any form of commercialized sexuality including porn or strip clubs. Right?

    3. Where is Anonymous when we need them?

  16. I think this is simply a troll site, nothing more.  Has anyone here actually tried to submit a fake? I just tried with a picture of my dog–said “successfully submitted” but poor old Mils never showed up.

    And it has exactly 100 “prostitutes” listed–and from lightly perusing about half the pages, all that I saw seem to be mug shots or pictures that look suspiciously to be from online “escort” sites.   So, for a site being listed on Boing Boing since yesterday, and getting other publicity on the web–100 submissions, most if not all put up by the proprietors of this site???

    I bet even that “my 11 year old better stop getting calls” FB post mentioned in this post was a fake to generate more outrage.

    Somebody’s probably just screwing around, enjoying all the attention with no plan to ever do anything with it.

    1.  I’d thought about this, but then “Anonymous isn’t your personal army.”

      It’s not impossible to get them to do it, but you’d need to have a certain degree of influence I think.

    1. OK, if you say so. 

      Weird they seem to only want to blackmail their own hand-picked set of exactly 100, evidently gleaned exclusively from freely available web site escort sites and freely available online mugshots. Without accepting other submissions.  While putting by all indications fake FB posts about how outraged people are about “their 11 year old getting calls”.

      But…again…if you say so.

      1. “While putting by all indications fake FB posts about how outraged people are about “their 11 year getting calls”.”

        Hrm. Well, in that case it’s still not a troll, but trying to astroturf them up some business from the “controversy”.

  17. Section 270 of the CDA immunizes the website owner only if they’re displaying facts supplied by a third party. A website wouldn’t be able to claim this immunity if they’re supplying their own content. It’d take a subpoena against Domains By Proxy to get them to divulge the registrant.

    Of course, a woman appearing on the site could issue a DMCA takedown for the picture, assuming she took the picture or has the rights from the photographer.

    That’d be faster and cheaper than the lawsuit against the domain.

  18. I think perhaps some rich and famous people should be named and shamed.  They could probably get this guy arrested for extortion fairly quickly.

  19. I suggest we send this site out and encourage everyone to flood it with fake pictures and joke names (i.e. Amanda Huggenkiss, Ben Dover, Hugh Jass, Spongebob Squarepants, etc.)

  20. The way I see it, there’s basically three types of profiles on this site:

    1) Mugshots from actual police records with real names. Even if you pay to remove yourself, those police records still exists on plenty of sites (the one where this site just took the pics/names from in the first place).

    2) Random pics from escort ads with no real full name or even the first name. Chances are they don’t even include the real name. No point in removing yourself, because who’s going to find it in a web search in the first place? Sure, maybe it crops up in an TinEye image search, but just like 1), that pic was already on the Internet elsewhere where it was associated with the sex worker biz.

    3) ‘Revenge’ profiles, where someone posted a racy pic and real name of an ex out of spite, or worse, who is to stop the site owners from seeding their profiles with random pics they found on the Internet? In this case, the profile is so out of context and lacks credibility (especially if there’s no mug shot of police report to back it up), who would believe it when they found it?

    So really, there’s no rational reason anyone would want to pay these guys.

    In reality, there’s probably a number of people under 3) that will freak out at the idea of their name being associated with the nature of the site. They can’t calmly understand that it’s not as bad as it looks and you shouldn’t give into the crooks running it. Other folks may see someone else’s name on the site and not get that it’s likely an extortion scam.

    Still, I’d just like to think people are smarter than this. The lack of Twitter feed updates makes me hope that this thing isn’t getting enough tracking to merit continuously maintaining it.

  21. Where’s Anonymous at? I know this isn’t necessarily on the same level of importance as some of the other hacktivist ideas but seriously someone needs to break that site. 

  22. The ones running the site were probably raised by a postitute and molested by a pediphial, and tho they grew old they never grew up and to them every women is a prostitute and every man is a pediphial, and because they never grew up they never had a real job so they resort to this type of cowardice for means of finances and subconciously its like them gettin revenge on the prostitut who raised em and the molestor who touched them and i guessing if a closer look is taken there will be so similarities amongst their targets because they are probably posting those tht trigger these unconquerd issues and remind them of that incident and their predators, n now they are actually just being looked as pathetic in nature weak and will have to remain in hiding because they dont have to balls to face their past and to them its a form of power that makes them feel superior to their pedafiles and any one who pays it just basically their financer of their substance abuse needed to numb because this coward way of facing their past is to them a victory instead of facing it head on and gettin real professional help and so any one who pays is just actually helping them stay trapped in that issue and encourageing them to believe their doing the right them cuz to them every prostitute and pediphial has to pay, now though I have my own beliefs when it comes to protitutes and pediphials and im not sayin anything toward true cases and if i did speak on it i definitely wouldnt be hiding like these cowards but i am simply speaking to that situation and saying they are trapped by their past and bound by their fear and cosumed with proving to them selves they are gettin justice on those who did em wrong to the point of protecting themselves legally and are convinced they are doing the right thing  and its only a matter of time before this does not even suffice and we will hear of some report of suicide or they will go over board because that issue is never done unless its removed at the root and those posted have become victim to the fruit of the issue thinkin that it starts with their actions on conduring up the idea and posting the website so i would say do not give them money and if posted contact them however they say to communicate with them for removal and keep attacking and touchn that issue stateing i will not give you money because i know its false but i just want to confront you and ask were you molested or were you raised by a prostitute and their response will say everything and they will hate their own website because they will see it exposed them more and did more damage to them and their rep more then it did to any one posted and instead of going back and spell checking any mistakes you know what i mean so overlook misspelled words

  23. DISGUSTING, but here is a way to fight back.  Under the DMCA website have some protection for what people put on their web sites, that is what these slimy bastards are hiding behind.  But under that law they have to take down copyrighted material or suffer the consequences as infringers (which can be substantial).  ALL of the pictures are copyrighted images, send them a notice of infringement.

    And hey Anonymous, take a look at this!  Please let us know who is behind this.

  24. So, is this how Rush Limbaugh is making up for the lost revenues of all those canceled ad contracts with his show?

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