This is something I thought of today: a text-based “bad date” blacklist for sex workers and people in the sex trade. I know that there are several online “blacklists” out there, along with local “bad date” lists, but this is unique because it can be offered for free, and used from cheap cell phones many street-based workers have.
HOW TO USE:
Using a cell phone, sex workers can text the license plate number, phone number, or email address to a specified number. The text could be something like “5031234567 ?” (phone number 503-123-4567) or “OR*ABC012 ?” (Oregon license plate ABC-012).
The server computer looks up the information in the central database for a match. The worker would receive a response within seconds indicating whether or not there was a match, and if so what kind.
If there is no match, the server would respond with the message “NO RECORD.” If there are matches, it will give discreet codes like “VI” for violent or abusive client, or NC for someone who refuses condom. There may be multiple reports for the same person, in which case the response would say something like “VI NC*2”.
HOW TO REPORT:
When a sex worker experiences a bad date, she or he can text the license plate number, phone number, or email address to a specified number.
When reporting, the worker can include a code to indicate what kind of “bad date” it was, such as:
VI – violent or abusive
NP – no payment
HG – persistent haggler
NS – no show
NC – refuses condom
DR – especially disrespectful
PO – police
ST – stalker
PH – keeps calling, no intent to pay
A worker would send information such as:
5031234567 VI NC = phone number 503-123-4567, violent, refuses condom
OR*ABC012 PH NS = Oregon license plate ABC-012, repeated phone calls without intent to pay and no show.
ADVANTAGES OF USING THIS SYSTEM
- it can function via text alone, making it easier to use even on cheap prepaid phones; workers don’t have to carry an incriminating piece of paper on them.
- it can be implemented for relatively cheaply–cheap enough that we can probably get it funded by donations, and offer as a free service to all. (We can probably get it started for $1,000 seed money.)
- unlike “Bad Date Line,” it doesn’t have to publish the master list (it only responds to the specific number or email address that was inquired).
- Someone could make false reports.
- True, but if someone was led to make a false report, there must be some reason. We don’t guarantee that the information is always correct, but workers can make their own decisions about whom they interact with.
- Someone who is blacklisted might dispute it.
- Solution: any client who disputes the information can come to us with a proof of identity, and we would agree to replace the code(s) with “DP” for “report was made, but is disputed.”
- The record might be used as evidence for prostitution.
- We won’t keep the record of who is texting us.
- Also, we could modify the system to make it available to the general public who are going on date with people they met online. That way, usage of the service does not necessarily indicate that someone is doing sex work.
This is the kind of cost that we’d be looking at. I think it’s entirely possible to fund with individual donations.
Is there any tech person who is interested in volunteering with a project like this? Do you know anyone?