By: Maya Roman
Translated by: Orna Raz
Two weeks ago we were shocked to see on channel 2 a promotional program featuring a bachelor party in Romania. The reaction of outrage to what is happening in a faraway land is legitimate, still, we should apply the same critical approach to what is going on in our country as well.
Following serious complaints that arrived to the editors of P.See regarding advertising sex services in the popular bulletin board Yad 2, we decided to investigate this topic.
The popular site offers an option with the innocuous name “alternative”, it includes 5 categories: massage, spirituality and new age, complementary medicine, spa, fitness, nutrition and mysticism and Kabbalah.
Our examination revealed that most of the ads are in the category of “Massage” out of 1758 ads 1527 belongs to this category.
Most of the ads in this category include suspicious wordings like “releasing massage” and “only for serious clients.” The lion’s share of the ads in this category was posted in recent days, at least 800 in the 24 hours when we ran our check. This finding indicated that the section is very active. To some of the ads, but not to all of them, the editorial staff added a short notice: “Noteworthy: the advertiser declared that she gives only massage services. However, a simple Google search of the phone numbers tells a different story: Some of the numbers belong to escorting services or to women who engage in prostitution.
In several calls that we made to customer service of Yad 2 the representative explained how to formulate an ad in such a way that it bypasses the rules of the site regarding advertising prostitution. For example, it is forbidden to post a photo of the masseuse, it is not allowed to use words that reveal the age of the “masseuse” or her country of origin, as can be seen from the transcript of our conversation with the representative:
Representative: Your ad will not be approved if it has a photo of the masseuse, so it’s best to avoid it. In addition, the content should not indicate who is the masseuse, if she is young or old what is her country of origin or her age. Do not include such details in the ad, you can give them later on the phone. But really in order for the ad to be approved you should do what I told you. At any event if there is any problem with the ad we will contact you (or you will contact us).
P.See Researcher: I understand, but in practical terms, if I post such an ad, will people know what I am after?
Male Representative: ahhm
Researcher: Like, do you understand what I mean?
Representative: Yes, write it yourself, if we find a problem we will tell you. And as far as the photos you are not allowed to show the masseuse, and in the content I told you not to hint who is the masseuse or what services she provides. That will come afterward, on the phone
This topic is not new, in 2011 a public outcry against advertising prostitution in the site resulted in a change of the regulations and in theory the advertising stopped.
In the same year an amendment to the penal code concerning advertising prostitution services passed. Up to that year the law only regarded prostitution of minors as a criminal offense. But the amendment to the law clarifies that advertising prostitution services as a whole, is a crime. Although six years have passed, there are only a few rulings regarding this issue, and advertisements of prostitution services exist in various public and internet venues. It is enough to Google the title “prostitution service in Israel” and a myriad of sites with different advertisements comes up.The most significant ruling on the subject is against the “adults portal” “Banana” which was penalized for advertising prostitution services. But still a short search on the internet reveals:
Sources inside Yad 2 told us that the company is aware of the fact that some of the ads indeed are for prostitution.They claim that the company is trying to combat this tendency with close supervision of any change in the ads, limiting the wording, and the need to add an affidavit claiming that the ad is not for sex services.
As we demonstrated, in spite of the attempts of the site, and its obligation to monitor the advertisements, many of them have to do with prostitution. It seems that a simple google search, like we did, could have helped the team in Yad 2 to discover it. Considering the ease of such tests, we wonder if Yad 2 truly is making an effort to stop advertising prostitution services, or the site is only interested in avoiding criminal charges. Perhaps criminally the management of Yad 2 is doing its maybe fixed by erasing the ‘alternative’ section from the site. In light of the damages of prostitution and the fact that this is a large, central and popular site we demand that Yad 2 removes the section or start monitoring it much more effectively.
The response of Yad 2: “Yad 2 is a free bulletin board and each day it has ten thousand new ads. The site objects to the promotion of sex services and accordingly it takes many steps to keep the policy and the regulations concerning this topic. Every advertiser is asked to declare that this is not an ad for dex disguised as massage therapy. In addition, the team in customer service scans all the advertisements daily in order to track and remove those which do not conform to the regulations. When we receive a complaint about inappropriate advertisement we remove it immediately.
Research, additional writing, and reporting: Chagit, Shira Hadas Nakar, Rachel Beitarie, Tami Dynes and the team of P.See.