A national watchdog group Thursday included companies such as Amazon and Massage Envy on its “Dirty Dozen” list of businesses that facilitate sexual exploitation.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-pornography nonprofit founded by Morality in Media Inc., presented its list in Washington, D.C., by noting a lawsuit it filed last month in California against Wyndham Hotels on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff who claims she was trafficked sexually at Super 8 hotels (a Wyndham subsidiary) with the knowledge and assistance of hotel staff.
“They’re facilitating underage sex trafficking,” said *Benjamin Bull, the center’s general counsel. “Wyndham knew or should’ve known that these girls were being attacked.”
A Wyndham representative declined to comment about the lawsuit, but said the hotel chain condemns sex trafficking and prohibits pornographic programming.
“Through our partnerships with Polaris, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, and International Tourism Partnership, we continue to enhance our policies condemning human trafficking,” the representative said in an email. “We mandate training for our company employees around the world to help them identify and report trafficking activities.”
Other businesses accused by the center of enabling sexual predators, prostitution or the porn industry include Google, which it said provides insufficient porn filters on Chromebooks used by schoolchildren; Seeking Arrangement, a “sugar daddy” website that connects young women with older men; and credit card company Visa, whose payment processing system the group said is used by porn actors.
“By doing this, Visa is normalizing the pornography industry,” said Dawn Hawkins, the executive director of the group, which also chastised the state of Nevada for legalizing brothels.
The group also criticized Amazon for inserting gratuitous sex scenes in its original streaming programs and hosting “thousands of hardcore violent pornography and prostitution websites” on its Amazon S3 and web services, and Google Play for offering the Seeking Arrangement app in its app store.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation itself has been criticized by groups that note that pornography is protected free speech. For example, the American Library Association has objected to the “Dirty Dozen” listing its academic research database in 2018.
“If middle or high school students are looking for sex on the internet, they do not start with library databases,” the association’s intellectual freedom director, James LaRue, wrote in a blog post. He said that pornographic material cannot be found in academic journals.
Still, the watchdog group said its list has effected social change. Haley McNamara, the group’s vice president for advocacy, said United Airlines altered its training practices after it was placed on the 2018 “Dirty Dozen” list for failing to deal with passengers using mobile devices to watch porn midflight.
“We call on other airlines to follow suit,” Ms. McNamara said Thursday.
However, a United representative said the airlines’ policy for the past four years has prohibited passengers from streaming content rated beyond R by the Motion Picture Association of America.
“In 2018, we strengthened our training for flight attendants to recognize, address and respond to instances of sexual harassment of any kind on board our aircraft and will continue to adapt and enhance this training moving forward,” the representative said in a statement.
* (Correction: A previous version of the story attributed a quote to the wrong person. The story was fixed in an updated version.)