Using memes, Facebook videos and Google ads to combat sex trafficking

By: Henry Rosoff

Updated:

SEATTLE - A local nonprofit is using cat memes, short Facebook videos, and even search engine advertising to help dramatically reduce the number of men looking to buy sex online.      

The ads were put online by the non-profit Seattle Against Slavery.

“The reason we do these ads is to make sure that guy [searching for paid sex], is not screwing up his life and hurting someone else,” said the group's executive director Robert Beiser.  He said the online effort to target the men searching for paid sex began on Google in 2014.  The first ads targeted people using search terms like "Seattle Escorts Tonight."

“If men search for those ads, instead they got something that said: ‘You're going to regret this, this will cause harm to your family, and you could be hurting someone else,’” Beiser said.

Now Seattle Against Slavery is working with Google, Microsoft and Facebook to grab the attention of people searching for paid sex.  The ads and post link searchers to resources to deter them from paying for sex and offers them counseling.  

“What we were able to do in the past few years is run 1.8 million ads,” Beiser said. 

Beiser shared with KIRO 7 a chart that shows about a 20 percent drop people searching for sex online in greater-Seattle-- in part because of his group’s effort.

The strategy is already being copied in other cities like Boston and Chicago.  It also does not usually cost too much because the big tech giants helping with the effort carve out resources for non-profit work.​

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