Of course, what do you expect to happen when you can be endorsed for ‘prostitution’ as a skill on the professional social network. Admittedly, many of those ‘endorsed’ work in counselling or crime enforcement, but a number are demonstrably based in Amsterdam and feature semi-nude profile pictures.
So, are users actively seeking out sex workers and escorts on LinkedIn? Its search function suggests they are: the following terms are all auto-generated when you start typing: female escorts; calls girls; hot girls; adult entertainment; escort services.
LinkedIn has now opted to ban any kind of sexual advertising as a pre-emptive measure to avoid legal action. Prostitution is legal in some European countries but the law governing who can be prosecuted in areas where it is illegal is pretty wishy-washy, which is especially risky for multi-jurisdictional online networks like LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is not the only social network to have battled the issue of users selling sex, however. Twitter is full of accounts set up by ‘HotBabesXXX’ and the like and as soon as one has been shut down, three spring up in its place.
Over on Facebook, the authorities recently caught the ring-leader of a Vietnamese prostitution ring who has been putting photos of girls on her page. And, after an investigation by The Times, Facebook removed dozens of pages offering escort and sex services. Some even included explicit photographs, descriptions of services, alongside phone numbers, addresses and prices.
Mills Kelly, from George Mason University in the US, who has studied the impact of the internet on prostitution, said: ‘If you want an escort or sex worker in any major city in the world, Facebook is a good place to start your search.’