If you're not on Twitter and missed the epic blowout over the past two days, DDF Escorts is an aspiring escort directory (though currently offline) that has the idea of "guaranteeing" that their advertisers are "drug and disease free". The owner, Aaron von Nida, works for Eco Profit Management (which was on the whois information), and I sent this email to his boss, Winton Evers, to explain why he doesn't want his company associated with it. Winton knew, by the way, what this company was, and that Aaron was running it.
Good afternoon Winton,
Thanks for talking with me on the phone yesterday!
Just quickly, a bit about myself, as you're apparently at a disadvantage here. My name is Sienna, I'm an escort based out of Canberra. Myself and many, many of my peers have come across your employee's new website, and have nearly unanimously concluded that it is not only harmful to the industry, but harmful to such an extent that we may actually pursue legal action against it - in conjuction with Vixen, Scarlet Alliance and SWOP NSW. I'll put this in a list format so that you can more easily reference it when replying or bringing it up with Aaron.
On the surface, his business plan might have seemed a good idea. Of course people would prefer to see sex workers who are free from disease, and probably abstain from drugs! But I'll show you why it's illegal, horribly stigmatising, dangerous for sex workers, and rests on a lot of incredibly nasty false assumptions about sex workers.
Issues with the business:
1. The laws that we have deduced it is probably breaking:
- Under DDF’s business model they can’t advertise in Victoria at all as it would be a breach of Part 3, 11 (4)(d) of the Sex Work Act. The website states that they are signing up escorts in Melbourne.
- They also can't advertise in Queensland, under the Prostitution Act of 1999, 90 (4). They state they are signing escorts in Brisbane.
- And, as I found out this morning, not in the ACT either.
- Under those states’ legislation, it is illegal to advertise services without a prophylactic (condom) - they flat out have one advertising "nat anal" (anal sex without a condom).
- One lawyer believes she could very easily make a case for the anti-discrimination act as well: it is illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis of that person having a chronic disease. Statement from the lawyer: "This entire thread supports my view that there could be a claim made in the Human rights and Equal Opportunity Commission against this company. Its policies are clearly in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which states that you cannot discriminate against persons who have 'the presence of organisms causing or capable of causing disease or illness'." The website states that all escorts are certified drug and disease free, which means they disallow those who return positive test results, or force them to disclose their private medical information. Which brings me to my next point...
- Medical laws, and the holding of medical data. SWOP is looking into this as we speak, talking to the Chief Executive Officer of Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology (DDF states this is who does their testing) and the National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council (NPAAC). They are also considering consulting with the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses.
- I expect SWOP will get back to us soon with a more definitive list of laws that DDF is currently breaking, or will likely break if they continue.
2. The complete lack of research done into the industry as a whole, and issues sex workers face is staggering. If you wish to start a business in an area, it is expected that it will flop unless you ensure you know your market. The biggest problem with starting up something to do with the sex industry, other than getting your head around the myriad of state and federal laws, is that what you are doing can very often be dangerous. This company encourages clients to push for bareback services, and according to this report (which talks about the impact of decriminalization of sex work), since sex workers are less likely to have sexually transmitted infections as a whole, statistically that means the worker is likely to contract something from the client. Utter silence, by the way, from DDF on the subject of client health. Probably because married men don't want to give out their information to us, let alone some strange new directory. Something else to consider: even if they're not pressuring us into bareback services, clients sometimes "stealth" - take the condom off without consent. If DDF has given them the green light that the escort they're with is "clean", this could act as further encouragement to do so.
3. It also increases the stigma around sex work and sex workers in general - much like advertising your restaurant as "Salmonella and E.Coli Free Pizza", this implies that all other pizzas are carrying disease, or that pizzas in general are very likely a dirty food. This stigma contributes to the violence against us, as perpetrators believe they can get away with it (for a fun example, see here, and for an example of entitlement, see here - these are not uncommon stories, and they're caused by stigma), and police don't take our allegations seriously much of the time. This stigma prevents us from seeking the medical care we require, as we feel judged for our profession by doctors and mental health professionals, who often tell us to "just quit" our perfectly legal jobs. Stigma means "face out" sex workers (those who show their faces), often struggle to get other careers. Stigma means people won't rent to us, or grant us home loans, despite our sometimes significant income.
4. From a friend: "The key social issue with the DDF Escorts agency promoting sexual health verification, is that it propagates the idea that a sex worker is ‘worthy’ of seeing clients because her or she has had a sexual health check. This is a damaging concept that tells clients that anyone who does not produce evidence of a health check, or those who test positive for something, are not worthy of their business. Further, this leaves an opening for fraudulent activity. Sexual health checks are easily reproduced dishonestly, and the concept of losing work may lead some workers to submit falsified evidence in order to be accepted by your agency. As DDF Escorts stipulates the good health of its providers, your company may face legal action by a disgruntled client who contracts an infection."
All this in conjunction with the worker's working name. Recently, the FBI seized Backpage's servers (a classifieds website that serviced around 70% of the escorting industry globally) and Eros' servers (an escort directory which held the passports of workers they had listed), which contained a lot of information on the people who posted with them. Also recently, due to the new laws passed in the United States (FOSTA/SESTA, read more here) and the fact that prostitution is illegal there, sex workers who have not been intending to work in the USA have been turned away at the border and banned for ten years - coming to the US from Canada, the UK, the EU, Asia, and Australia. Some of that is due to facial recognition algorithms picking things up, some of it is due to data breaches. What do you think will happen if the data that DDF is collecting is leaked? Given Aaron is not an IT professional, I wouldn't be shocked if his data is stored insecurely. In fact, since I was able to find out his birthday and city of birth, his home address, his parents' home address, his personal phone number, where he went to university and what he studied, his current employment... I'd say he's not too good at infosec. At this point, I could almost get a fake ID in his name with the amount of information I have that was freely available to me on the internet, since I know how to get it.
For many of us, sex work is not a career. If that data was leaked, how many people would lose their day jobs, be unable to get employment in their chosen field after university, be kicked out of their homes by their landlords, have their families disown them, or be removed from their churches?
And then the fact that they are playing middle man to some incredibly sensitive news for no good reason? "Your test results have returned positive to HIV" - "Hi, this is DDF Escorts, either consent to having your results displayed in public, or we will deactivate your profile." - it's beyond words.
6. The charges expected. This is a service that is free in nearly every city in the country. I can go down to my local hospital's sexual health clinic, where I know for sure my data is kept safe by the federal laws governing patient information, and have a free check done with the results sent to my phone within a few days. If I can't make it to the clinic during their hours (which are 9-2 here in Canberra), there are many doctors who bulk bill and will be happy to have the tests done for me, also for free. Paying $150 for a test is ridiculous, and preys upon workers who are ESL or recent immigrants who aren't aware of the fact that we have free systems in place.
7. The timing. As mentioned above, with FOSTA/SESTA passing, and the closure of Backpage, we are at a vulnerable point in the industry. DDF is not the first "new directory" to attempt to take advantage of us while people are panicking and grasping at whatever they can to get business. We are very wary of outsiders trying to scam money out of us, and yes, that is what it appears DDF is attempting to do.
8. The repeated dishonesty on social media and disgusting remarks that imply we are dirty. Yes, I have receipts. Please enjoy:
9. Several of their tweets have been deleted, and their website has been "revised" several times to remove hypocritical statements. They did not consult with a single sex worker when making this website. Not one. The "market research" mentioned in the above images is another lie. Had he done any research at all, he would have found that we are less likely to be carriers of STIs, that we aren't all uneducated women with daddy issues (I have two degrees and I am working on a third, and I am far from a minority), that we have around the same percentage of drug use as the general population, that we are especially vulnerable to violence, that we are not even all women (there are so many transgender, gay and straight male, and non-binary escorts out there).
Where this will become an issue for you:
Obviously we were quite incensed at the creation of this site and wanted to see who was behind it. We had a quick look to see who the owner of the ABN, ACN, and website domains were, and this is what came up:
Well, I'm very sorry to tell you that this information has been put on social media for everyone to see. You've also been tagged through your (mostly inactive) Twitter account, so Eco Profit Management and DDF Escorts are now publicly linked. I will make no secret of the fact that I have also spread this, to my 2k+ followers, as have a lot of my friends - and some of those friends have over 15k followers each. As you can imagine, any information on who the owner was has proven valuable to see what his qualifications are, and if he is a part of the sex industry. I have no intention of flaming your business at all (however I have no such qualms about doing so to DDF), all of this is public information, and I have not made any untrue statements about your company. But I am sure you can see why it is not good to have yourself associated with this business in light of the above information and perhaps during the process we will be undertaking to attempt to shut this down.
In addition to this wall of text, I have attached a letter from a fellow sex worker, who has some things to say about the discrimination we face, and that this website is making unspeakably worse. SWOP will soon get back to me with a form letter that I would also like for you to have. We would appreciate it if you would read through it, and consider the implications. We are not asking you to fire your employee (assuming this is your relationship with Aaron), but we are asking you to reconsider condoning this business venture, and would like to extend an invitation to you and him to actually talk to us, since he has not bothered before being informed on Twitter and Instagram of his mistakes (where he has doubled down instead of bothering to learn, only signal boosting the very few escorts - three, at this point - who support him).