Sexual benefits of all kinds offered on the web against “roses” (understand: euros) … This is a code implemented by certain web platforms to circumvent the law: profiting from prostitution is liable to seven years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros. In 2020, the “oldest profession in the world” barely hides to thrive on the internet.
For eleven months, “Complément d'Enquête” worked on the two main escorting sites, suspected by the police of being virtual brothels. His investigations uncover the enormous benefits generated by this type of site. Are the biggest pimps now hiding behind the canvas?
A datajournalism program specially developed for this survey
Here is how the magazine team proceeded: two computers, bought specially for the occasion, remained connected 24 hours a day throughout this investigation, to sift through the two sites. “Further investigation” was addressed to a young crack in data processing so that it conceives a program of datajournalism.
Victor has developed a kind of robot that simulates a human user in order to collect all the data exchanged on these two sites, called A and B. This collection gives “a clear idea of how many prostitutes are in which city, everywhere in France”, he explains. It also provides information on their age, their nationality, etc. As many precise data obtained legally, since they are public.
Accurate mapping of online prostitution throughout France
According to the data, the 17,000 women registered on these two sites are mostly French, aged 18 to 70 years. They sell their bodies in 1,208 cities across the country. This process made it possible to obtain an accurate map of online prostitution. We can see that it covers all of France, from Paris to medium-sized cities like Besançon, and to rural communities such as Beauvoir-sur-Niort, 1,752 inhabitants.
Dizzying sums: 7.5 million euros in turnover in less than a year
The program allows, finally, to count to the nearest penny the sums generated by the subscriptions of Lola, Deborah (who testified for this document), and all the others who pay to be referenced by the two sites. Dizzying sums.
Example: mid-September 2019, for site A, we arrive at 2,670,710.35 euros in turnover; for site B, 1,373,501.67 euros. Or a cumulative total of around 4 million euros in six months. The robot continued to calculate for the next five months. In February 2020, escort sites A and B had generated almost 450,000 euros. In total, in eleven months, 7.5 million euros in turnover…
Extract from “Escort girls, 'sex tours': brothels on the net”, a document from “Further investigation” to be seen on March 12, 2020.