Help Stop Recruitment into Prostitution through Russia's Largest Social Network VKontakte!

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VKontakte is the largest Russian social network. It has been actively used for recruitment of women into sex industry and trafficking. In February and March alone, there were nearly 10 thousand ‘girls only’ ads of jobs in ‘intimate services’ - jobs at massage salons, Russian and foreign escort services and other ‘highly paid jobs with no experience required’.

We collected these data in just a few hours by a keyword search through posts and comments in the social network. Interestingly, while we found 849 ads in February, the number rose to 8482 in March. One can only guess how many of such ‘job offers’ female users receive via direct messages.

Most of such ads serve to recruit women into various forms of sexual exploitation. In reality, the advertised "work" does not always match the description. The job of a dancer in a bar or masseuse in a salon often implies the provision of sex services. The "flexible schedule" turns into a round-the-clock flow of "customers", while the promised "high income" depends on it.

The most vulnerable group for the involvement in prostitution are women aged 18-35, unemployed or with no job experience, graduates of orphanages or schools, students, and single mothers. These women may have limited social capital and/or low quality of life. Popular ‘myths’ about and romanticization of prostitution may make them even more vulnerable to recruiters.

We believe that the rising number of sex industry job ads is associated with the World Cup 2018 that is hosted by Russia. A similar trend had been noted during previous championships in 2010 in South Africa and in 2014 in Brazil.

Prostitution brings with it the risks of physical and sexual violence or infection with HIV and other diseases. What’s more, prostitutes in Russia have virtually no access to legal, psychological or medical assistance, not least because of the lack of prostitution exit programs. Violence against women in general is a huge problem in Russia and needs a systemic approach.

We believe that VKontakte can contribute a great deal to averting recruitment into sexual exploitation and combating violence, not only during the World Cup but also in the future.

This is why we ask VKontakte to build a mechanism that will allow to swiftly detect and delete suspicious ads. This could be a bot or an app that would filter job ads by keywords. We are convinced that VKontakte can find an efficient solution to this problem.