An FBI raid on a local website that features reviews, ratings, and listings for sex workers ended in an arrest of at least two employees and a complete shutdown of the site. However, at least one advocate is decrying the action, saying that the site's closure could endanger, not help, local sex workers.
MyRedbook.com, which describes itself as featuring "San Francisco Bay Area Escorts, incall, outcall, escort agency, massage parlors, AMP, AAMP, escort reviews, classified ads," was raided Wednesday morning because it was "advertising children for prostitution," reports CNN.
The effort, which according to CNN has resulted in the rescue of 168 children and the arrest of 281 alleged sex traffickers, led to the arrest of "54 johns, 13 pimps, and 57 adult prostitutes" in the Bay Area, as well as the rescue of six children who were "forced into prostitution," the Contra Costa Times reported.
According to law enforcement sources who spoke with CNN, some of the children rescued in the sweep were identified through MyRedbook.com.
KTVU staffer Azenith Smith tweeted a photo outside what she said was the MyRedbook raid, saying that "FBI & IRS searching this #MountainView home tied to http://myredbook.com - child exploitation web site."
In a statement to Bay City News, FBI spokesman Peter Lee said that a hearing related to the case would be held this afternoon in the federal courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins in San Francisco.
He confirmed that there were multiple FBI search and arrest warrants served in the Bay Area today, including in the 200 block of Houghton Street in Mountain View.
According to CNN, two people were arrested on suspicion of operating the site, and the site has been shut down—though their Twitter account remains live, at least for now—replaced by a page that reads (in part)
This domain name has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as the result of a joint investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.
This domain name is subject to both civil and criminal forfeiture. This seizure is based on probable cause to believe that this domain name was involved in money laundering derived from racketeering based on prostitution in violation of state and federal law.
This is of concern to Kristina Dolgin, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), who told the SF Examiner that she believed the site's shutdown could actually harm, not help, local sex workers.
"This will be impacting the most marginalized workers," Dolgin told the Examiner, since MyRedbook.com was one of the only sites that allowed those in the sex industry to post ads at no cost.
Safety is a concern for Dolgin as well. "Using an online platform, there is at least the opportunity to interact with the client from a distance," she told the Examiner. "People may have to resort to less safe means of supporting themselves."
An alert posted to SWOP's site stated: "Sex workers beware! The FBI has seized MyRedbook.com. Some of our members are reaching out to attorneys now to consult regarding the safety of those who have accounts."