US police have shut down TheReviewBoard.net, one of the best known and highly used escort review forums in the Seattle area.
TheReviewBoard.net operated for several years. The site describes itself as
Seattle hobbyists and providers gather to share information, or chat in a relaxed environment.
The website's home page has now been hijacked by police and shows a message indicating it has been:
Seized pursuant to a promoting prostitution investigation conducted by the King County Sheriff's Office, the Bellevue Police Department, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to KIRO-TV, eight men associated with TheReviewBoard.net site were arrested for promoting prostitution, money laundering, and various other charges.
The Sex Workers Outreach Project, known as SWOP, condemned the
site's seizure and noted that there is resulting collateral damage.
SWOP believes the closure of TheReviewBoard.net is the latest in a long history of abuses of people in the sex trade that puts these communities in
more vulnerable and often more dangerous situations.
Along with raids, attacks on web-based communities like TRB harm both native and non-native sex workers. In addition to a discussion forum, TRB functioned as a free advertising
platform for adult workers. Many adult workers in the Northwest relied on the site as a low-barrier and free way to advertise and work without management, indoors, especially subsequent to MyRedbook's closure new barriers for using Backpage to advertise.
Capri Sunshine, a local sex worker and the SWOP-Seattle media coordinator, said:
The site was valuable to a lot of sex workers. It was free, undocumented workers without ID or credit cards could use
it, and it was where most girls got the majority of their work
President Donald Trump has signed the internet censorship FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution.
Websites started shutting down sex-work forums even before Trump signed
the bill. Craigslist removed its Personals section, Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits, and the Erotic Review blocked any user who appears to be visiting the website from the United States.
The bill becoming law will likely lead to more
voluntary site shutdowns or law enforcement actions against sites that continue to be used for prostitution.
The SESTA and FOSTA acronyms (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) suggest that the new law is aimed at
cracking down on sex trafficking. But the law barely distinguishes between trafficking and consensual sex work.
Operators of websites that let sex workers interact with clients could face 25 years in prison under the new law.