Sex Workers Have Serious Issues With a Crypto-Powered 'Uber for Escorts'

Monday 16 July 2018, 6:30 PM AEST - 2 years ago

"Too pimp-like and not safe to use."

That's how one sex worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the cryptocurrency platform PinkDate, for which she was invited to test the service but refused.

Describing itself as the "Uber of escorting," PinkDate is one of several sex industry startups launching a crypto-fueled booking app funded by an initial coin offering (ICO). The platform, currently in a closed beta, aims to match sex workers with clients (just as Uber does for drivers and passengers). Except instead of credit cards, clients would pay for services with bitcoin or monero.

The team has raised more than $1 million through the sale, and a dozen escorts are registered to use the app, according to Sarah Stevens, PinkDate's former president and chief operating officer.

However, experts familiar with the complexities of sex work identified a litany of issues unique to this project, from exploitative fees to a lack of sex worker representation in the project's leadership.

Not least of all, PinkDate is asking for a lot of trust.

First, the project's founders are anonymous and their locations are unknown.

A PinkDate spokesman who gave only a first name, Roger, told CoinDesk, "PinkDate is not registered as a legal entity. We are extra-jurisdictional and operate anonymously."

But while that setup may seem to be in line with the cypherpunk ethos that gave rise to cryptocurrency, PinkDate also requires the escorts using its platform to have active Twitter accounts and hand over copies of their government-issued ID.

This arguably creates an asymmetric relationship – the sex workers, who risk arrest or social ostracism if they were to be outed, are being asked to trust operators whom they know nothing about.

Screening and compliance

Another way in which escorts might have to trust PinkDate's shadowy founders is with client screening to weed out abusive customers.

While the platform will also ask clients to provide identification, sex workers worry PinkDate isn't devoting enough resources to cross-reference these IDs with industry blacklist databases.

Roger said all client information will be provided to the escort as well, although escorts felt this assurance was dubious based on a lack of responsiveness related to product launch delays and technical errors.

Another escort, who also requested anonymi ...

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