MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Eros.com Still Lives, But Homeland Security Raid Has Sex Workers Worried

The fate of the popular adult ad platform remains unclear after a raid on Eros' North Carolina servers.

Jacquie Boyd IKON Images/NewscomJacquie Boyd IKON Images/NewscomThe adult-services site Eros is still live for now, but federal agents seized servers, documents, and computers containing sensitive info on thousands of Americans in last Wednesday's raid of its North Carolina headquarters. And the feds won't say why.

"That is going to expose a whole bunch of innocent people," Maxine Doogan, president of the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project told Raleigh-Durham's ABC 11. "There's a big question about how the government will honor people's privacy. People have the right to their privacy and they should not be convicted or set up for moral judgment for adult activity."

Eros.com is billed as an "escort and adult entertainment directory." It's affiliated with a company called Bolma Star Services, run by Greg Huling, which operates out of Youngsville, North Carolina. But its reach is much, much broader: more than 100 area-specific sites worldwide.

Agents of Homeland Security Investigations spent hours at the place on November 8, loading lots of boxes into their trucks, according to local news reports. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the raid was part of an "active investigation," but no charges have been filed nor arrests made.

Whatever is happening, the case remains sealed for now. And the fate of the popular ad-platform remains unclear.

When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI took down adult ad platforms such as Rentboy.com, The Review Board, and MyRedbook, their web presence was simultaneously shuttered. So it's possible the Eros raid is related to a specific criminal case involving one or more users, not an attempt on the site itself.

If so, however, the volume of stuff taken from the Eros operations center is troubling. Surely the government could have merely demanded account information for those under investigation. The size of this seizure suggests more than an interest in a few Eros users. That, or a stunning overreach.

A third possibility is that the owners and companies behind Eros (and there is a confusing web of them) are under investigation for financial reasons.

In any event, the DHS now may have access to millions of people's "images, financial information, sexual preferences, gender identity and more," the Sex Workers Outreach Project notes in a statement. "[W]hat does Department of Homeland Security want with all of this information?"

"With sites like Eros.com and rentboy.com being added to the government shut down list we [lose] the opportunity to safely and properly lay out service boundaries, expectations, and guidelines for our interactions," the group continued. "Another site down directly puts more people in danger. Department of Homeland Security is creating an environment where perpetrators of violence can run a muck and go on to their next victim undetected."

Eros is one the few adult ad sites that takes extra measures (like checking real IDs) to ensure underage people aren't advertising or being advertised there—steps that now makes Eros users more vulnerable to government meddling and menace.

"Over the past few years, Eros has required progressively more revealing ID checks in order to confirm advertises are of age," writes Caty Simon at the sex work blog Tits and Sass. "Now those IDs, including those of migrant and undocumented sex workers, are in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security."

"No arrests have been made yet, or charges filed," notes Simon.* "But collectively, we sex workers shudder with that familiar fear: we're witnessing yet another instance of an ominous multi-year pattern, from Craigslist to MyRedBook to Rentboy to Backpage, of our advertising platforms being raided or pressured out of existence."

More panic-inspiring in the immediate term for many sex workers, though, is the loss of another advertising venue that made their lives safer and their work more profitable.

"As many Eros workers pointed out on social media, they're more worried about being homeless than about the government having [their personal] information," writes Simon. "The rest of us look on with empathy, knowing that any day, we could be next. We all try not to think about how tenuous and transitory our ways of doing business are so that we can go through our days without feeling the paralyzing economic terror hitting many of us now. But when something like this happens, it's difficult to avoid that hard fact."

* This quote was previously misatrributed to the statement from SWOP.

Photo Credit: Jacquie Boyd IKON Images/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    This is why we can't have a free internet, people: next thing you know, people are screwing hot chicks and I'm not one of them!

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    May be if you put on some make up once in a while...

  • ALWAYS RIGHT||

    You can feel safe on the internet if you want to sodomize a guy or do who-knows-what to a tranny.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I'd shift her pixels, if you know what I mean.

  • ||

    *nods knowingly* rasterizing!

  • Crusty Juggler||

    In any event, the DHS now may have access to millions of people's "images, financial information, sexual preferences, gender identity and more," the Sex Workers Outreach Project notes in a statement. "[W]hat does Department of Homeland Security want with all of this information?"

    John?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Anyone who wonders what DHS has to do with prostitution clearly doesn't remember ISIS terrorists flying those hookers full of people into the world trade center.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    John's been busier than Ray Moore at a Justin Bieber concert.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    All I can think about as I read about this article is the madness that ensues in South Park once the "Troll Trace" goes live.

    Oh yeah, I 'member that episode!

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Thank God for the DHS. I feel so secure.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    Department of Homeland Security is creating an environment where perpetrators of violence can run a muck and go on to their next victim undetected.

    Do you mean they literally run through a mixture of mud and filth to get to the next victim?

    English is hard...

  • Citizen X - #6||

    English is hard, especially when you're talking about a word (amok) that is actually Malay.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's been in use in English since 1665. How long does it take for a word to assimilate?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Back in my day words assimilated because they had no choice - now, these lazy words just expect the rest of the world to go along with whatever it is they want.

    I think we should build a vocabulary wall to keep the un-English words out!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    This guy gets it.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    Took oooor woooords!!!

  • silent v||

    And make Mexican pay for it!

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    "That is going to expose a whole bunch of innocent people,"

    Not so innocent... *wink wink*

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    "There's a big question about how the government will honor people's privacy.

    Not really.

    People have the right to their privacy and they should not be convicted

    That's true...

    or set up for moral judgment for adult activity."

    ...but let's not get carried away here.

  • Zeb||

    I think it's the set up part that's the problem. People can and should morally judge all they want. But the state doesn't need to help.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    loading lots of boxes into their trucks

    Nobody told them they didn't need to print the website.

  • TJM||

    Homeland Security paying attention to adult services is the definition of mission creep.

  • ||

    Why didn't they put the servers in another country? Someplace like the Cayman Islands?? Outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

    Operating a quasi-legal business like prostitution, marijuana or gambling from within the United States seems like a bad idea.

    It's all too easy for some publicity seeking, grandstanding politician to raid those businesses "for the sake of the children".

  • Rhywun||

    Outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

    Good one.

  • ||

    At least make it more difficult. Setting up an adult oriented business in North Carolina is just begging to be raided.

    Just had a thought: Cuba would make a great data haven.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Like, in orbit?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    If only the DHS spent its time and resources on protecting the homeland from _____ we would be safer.

    Fuck that! Chop the DHS's budget by 75%+.

  • John C. Randolph||

    I'm amazed that anyone still operates any kind of porn server in the USA. You never know when the left or the right is going to go off on a puritanical rampage.

    -jcr

  • Citizen X - #6||

    It's amazing how some people still think that not being guilty of any crime means the government won't come after you.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Puritanical Rampage is my nickname as of right now.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    No one is going to call you that.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You're just a poser...poser.

  • ||

    I'm amazed that anyone still operates any kind of porn server in the USA.

    No good business model is complete without a porn cloud development disaster recovery plan.

  • creech||

    Wonder how many Senate candidates' names will show up in the Eros files? Of course, we will only hear about those with a R after their names, and maybe some L's too.

  • Fuzzyedia||

    The answer 0.

    Most journalists have worked out a cozy deal with prosecutors and vice cops. They avoid looking too closely at the client list and holding those in authority accoutable provided they stick to the end demand plan of only arresting the guys.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Reason should do the libertarian community a favor and publish an in-depth article about how to protect yourself online.

    Average libertarians should be at least as familiar with basic stuff like the Tor browser, Whonix, Tails, encryption, etc.--and what they can and can't do for you--as they are with the commerce clause and Wickard v. Filburn.

    People who whine about the government spying on them but won't even bother to use the free tools available to protect themselves are annoying as hell. Don't count on the government or anyone else to care more about your rights than you do.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    I'm definitely frightened that one day the government is going to seize my computer and find all my porn and video games.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yeah, none of my porn is illegal, but I wouldn't be surprised that if politicians saw it they would pass a law against it.

  • Carter Mitchell||

    They need to rename it Department of Homeland Terrorism.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online