Backpage, myredbook, escortpost, theeroticreview and others have sections advertising prostitution—thus functioning as online brothels. Craigslist was described as “training wheels” for selling sex. In third world or recessionary economies, prostitution is a last-ditch survival option for poor young women or for women who are marginalized because of racism. Korean women, for example, are recruited by traffickers for prostitution in the United Sates via Internet advertising. An advertisement aimed at financially vulnerable women on the website read: “We know that in Korea these days, unemployment, the recession and the Special Law on Prostitution make it hard to earn even half of what you made before.” Enticing the women into prostitution, the traffickers then specify how much money can be made in a bar or massage parlor, declaring: “Advances possible. We take care of visas and bad credit.”

Most contemporary legal definitions of trafficking do not require physical movement, but rather coercion, force, fraud, or abuse of power to trap a victim in an exploitive situation. In some international legal definitions, consent is irrelevant. For the purposes of this article, we will use a definition of trafficking like that used in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: “The recruitment, [enticement,] harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act.”

Prostitution often meets the legal definition of human trafficking in that pimping or third-party control of a prostituted person cannot be distinguished from the identical crimes perpetrated in trafficking. According to estimates from eighteen sources including research studies, government reports, and nongovernmental agencies, on average 84% of women in prostitution are under third-party control or pimped or trafficked.

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