The Challenges of Illicit Ad Sites

In the past few years, there have been successful federal takedowns of commercial sex ad sites used to sell the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. We assess that increased site closures would greatly disrupt the main method by which traffickers and sex buyers communicate. So, why do so many ad sites continue to profit from trafficking and exploitation with seeming impunity? The answer is multifaceted: website owners and administrators hide behind laws meant to protect free speech, sites operate in whole or in part overseas to try and evade U.S. legal reach, and business enablers such as web hosts, registrars, payment processors and advertisers refuse to act. Newer laws contain elements as yet untested by the judicial system. Cases against ad sites require serious investments of time, money, and effort—simply put, they are daunting commitments.

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Methodology & Process

About Our Research

Research and analysis is where we interpret, synthesize, and validate information–it’s where actionable intelligence is born. Our reports discuss a range of topics, including deeper dives into trafficker’s business operations, strategic opportunities for disruption, and suggestions for addressing key intelligence gaps. All of our research currently focuses on one type of trafficking–the US illicit massage industry.