Click on Marielle, Lucy, Sybille or Monica. Chat online and meet up. It may look like any other escort website on the internet, but most of the Girls of Paradise are dead.
Start chatting with year-old Ines, a pretty, smiling brunette in a pale blue negligee and pictures of her battered and bruised face appear. A chilling message fills the screen: She is seriously disabled and will never be able to walk again. Click on Julia, 28, a blonde with cherry-red lipstick, and a series of images show her face swollen and bruised, her mouth bleeding. Killed by a client.
Chats with other girls turn equally horrific, detailing brutal attacks and grisly deaths. The fake escort website is the brainchild of French charity Mouvement du Nid and advertising agency McCann Paris, part of a campaign to raise awareness about the reality of prostitution. The charity discussed the innovative project at a conference in Delhi earlier this week, where representatives of civil society groups, activists and survivors from 30 countries shared strategies on how to curb the sexual exploitation of women.
The site - which uses the images of real women who were murdered by their clients, pimps or traffickers - is automated, but was live for two days last year with staff from Mouvement du Nid posing as prostitutes and interacting with clients.
From a make-shift call center, they chatted with clients online and by phone — but instead of offering sex, they said they were unavailable as they had been beaten by their pimp, or explained how the girl requested had been stabbed to death by a customer.
In the ten hours that the site was live, more than phone calls and thousands of online chats were recorded. The footage was used to produce a campaign video which showed how men visiting prostitutes were encouraging the global trade of women, so were accomplices to their abuse and exploitation. Mobile devices such as smartphones have further increased the use of the internet both generally and for prostitution websites.
In the Netherlands, the Internet had grown in importance by the mid s as a platform for recruiting prostitutes' clients, with escort workers advertising their mobile telephone numbers online. Some are free, while others charge to add a listing.
Others are free for a basic listing but charge for some additional features. Forums were amongst the first sites to be used by escorts. With the rise of other social media, their use has declined. It has become simple and easy for independent escorts to create a personal website for the purposes of advertising their prostitution services.
A number of sites have a section where clients can leave reviews for escorts. The practice of posting online reviews of escorts dates back to when The Erotic Review , a review site that allows customers to rate their experiences with sex workers, was created.
Punternet was originally the foremost review site despite adverse publicity from Harriet Harman   and Vera Baird  see below.
In recent years, Adultwork has had a larger number of reviews posted. UK Punting, founded in , is a sex worker review website which only includes client comments and has no input from sex workers. Books reviewing the providers of sexual services in the United Kingdom have been published by George McCoy since  and by McCoy was running a website reviewing over 5, massage parlours and individuals.
One feature of some early sites, particularly forums, were sections where warnings about "dodgy punters" and to a lesser degree, bad escorts could be posted. As these warnings were spread over about a dozen sites, keeping up with warnings that may be applicable to an individual was time consuming. In , talks took place in the industry about setting up a centralised warning site with warnings being fed by RSS from the existing sites.
It was agreed the newly formed Saafe site would carry the centralised warnings. Unfortunately, the centralised warnings did not work as well as envisaged and was eventually dropped in Since the rise of social media , escorts and escort agencies have used sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their services. The rise of online payment systems have enabled escorts and agencies to take payments for services.
When PayPal first started in , escorts were amongst their first customers. In Harriet Harman asked then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ban the website as ' Punternet ' fuels the demand for prostitution—a vice she said degrades women and puts them at risk. The website was not closed down and received an increase in traffic from the publicity. The website owners thanked Harman for the increase in business.
In , Suffolk Trading standards started Operation Troy, targeting bogus online escort agencies. These agencies promised large earnings in an effort to recruit escorts..