Potential Prostitutes, a controversial new website that solicits anonymous tips from users, said it aims to discourage online prostitution by creating a public database of women suspected of plying the trade.
Branded by NY Magazine as "the worst website ever," the portal allows users to anonymously create profiles pages for women they have allegedly "at one point or another come into contact with" online.
The website encourages users to submit a photograph, location, and phone number of the woman in question; however, it does not require the poster to provide a name or register an account.
According to Potential Prostitutes, once a name is uploaded, it becomes "highly visible" in search engines and remains so indefinitely unless the alleged offender pays to have it removed.
"PotentialProstitutes.com was developed to be highly visible in search engines to maximize the accessibility of the information we provide. The records for nearly all persons in our database can be accessed by searching the offenders name in Google, Yahoo and/or Bing," the website said in its FAQs section.
While it offers to remove content at the petitioner’s request, for a $99.95 fee, it claims impunity from defamation charges on the grounds of a law called the “Communications Decency Act.”
According to the website, Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, guarantees that such a website as Potential Prostitutes can't be treated as the publisher of user-generated content, even if it refuses to remove content that has been proven to be false.
“Because the submitted profiles on PotentialProstitutes.com are authored by users of the site, we cannot be legally regarded as the ‘publisher or speaker’ of the reports contained here, and hence we are not liable for reports even if they contain false or inaccurate information,” the website claimed.
Potential Prostitutes also warned would-be plaintiffs that they have fought and won numerous lawsuits charging them with defamation. Kenneth White, a lawyer and one of the bloggers behind Popehat, argued that claim is bogus.
"That’s a lie," White said, in an interview with BoingBoing. "The site was registered in October 2012. It’s part of the stock language such sites use."
Domain records indicated that the URL was registered in Sweden, on Oct. 28, BoingBoing reported. In the website’s month-long lifespan, however, it has already received a deluge of complaints on Facebook from visitors calling it a scam.
One purported user, Gigi Holliday, wrote that “PotentialProstitutes.com ... are using our Federal Law of 'Communication Decency Act ... against the Citizens Of the United States to Extort Money from woman that have been submitted falsely with no justifiable proof from the announce submitters [sic].
The writer added, “Potentialprostitutes.com has given a platform to revenge seekers, by allowing these announces [sic] third party users of their site to submitting false claims on some women.”
Another user, Travis Waldera, said it “Seems more like an advertisement of prostitutes.”
“You show pictures, phone numbers, and locations. So in reality you are a listing of prostitutes available for hire across the nation. I think I shall report you for your advertisement of paid sexual services.”
Mary Roberson said, “If my 11 year old son gets one more text from someone looking to hook up I will sue you.”