Seattle employees of both Google and Amazon were busted after using
their corporate accounts to send emails to local brothels and pimps
looking to purchase services from sex workers trafficked from Asia,
according to emails obtained by Newsweek.
obtained by Newsweek reveal another sordid corner of the tech
sector’s treatment of women: a horny nest of prostitution
“hobbyists” at tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and other firms in
Seattle’s high tech alley."
of the emails were swept up in a 2015 sting operation which targeted
online chat rooms and message boards in which customers rate sex
workers - resulting in the arrest of 18 of these "prostitution
several high level Amazon and Microsoft directors -
two of which are currently scheduled for trial in March.
brothels had been catering to Microsoft employees through several
"backpage.com" ads located nearby the company's Redmond, WA
headquarters, in what is becoming a booming business.
study commissioned by the Department of Justice found that Seattle
has the fastest-growing sex industry in the United States,
more than doubling in size between 2005 and 2012. That
boom correlates neatly with the boom of the tech sector there.
It also correlates to the surge
in high-paying jobs, since this “hobby” (the word johns
use online to describe buying sex) can be expensive: some of these
men spent $30,000
to $50,000 a year, according to authorities.
tech sector has not only employed a significant number of men who
pay for sex with trafficked women, it
has also enabled traffickers to more easily reach customers and to
hide their business from cops by taking it off the streets and
into computers and ultimately, hotel rooms, motels or apartments. In
one 24-hour-period in Seattle, an estimated 6,487 people solicited
sex on just one of the more than 100 websites that connect buyers
with sellers, according to a 2014 study.
note, Backpage.com shut down its adult sections in January,
citing government pressure following a 2016 Senate report on
commercial sex services fingered the website as a hotbed for criminal
activity, and stating that "Backpage officials have publicly
acknowledged that criminals use the website for sex trafficking,
including trafficking of minors."
CEO Carl Ferrer (Texas AG)
October, 2016, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer was
arrested in Houston and the company's Dallas
headquarters searched. NPR reported at the time that Ferrer, 55, was
charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit
pimping. Two controlling shareholders of Backpage — Michael Lacey and
James Larkin — also are charged with conspiracy to commit
prostitutes trafficked from Asia typically don't speak much English,
relying on translation apps to offer services such as "girlfriend"
experiences and "Nuru" (nude massage). Many of the women are working
their way out of debt bondage, and feared for their lives or those of
their families - according to one pimp interviewed during the 2015
spokesman for Microsoft said of the emails "Microsoft has a long
history of cooperating with law enforcement and other agencies on
combating sex trafficking and related topics, and we have employees
who volunteer their time and money specifically to combat this issue
as well. The personal conduct of a tiny fraction of our 125,000
employees does not in any way represent our culture. No organization
is immune to the unfortunate situation when employees act unethically
or illegally. When that happens, we look into the conduct and take
appropriate action. Microsoft makes it clear to our employees they
have a responsibility to act with integrity and conduct themselves in
a legal and ethical manner at all times. If they don’t, they risk
losing their jobs."
told Newsweek it's
investigating the matter, and that "It is against Amazon's policy for
any employee or Contingent Worker to engage in any sex buying
activities of any kind in Amazon's workplace or in any work-related
setting outside of the workplace, such as during business trips,
business meetings or business-related social events.' When Amazon
suspects that an employee has used company funds or resources to
engage in criminal conduct, the company will immediately investigate
and take appropriate action up to and including termination. The
company may also refer the matter to law enforcement."