Government threatening 100,000 euro fines for advertising “escorts”

The Internet Observatory of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has carried out a study on the advertising of prostitution on web portals and has discovered that, despite the fact that this type of advertisement is prohibited by law, there are still platforms that offer their advertising spaces “so that, apparently autonomously, those who practice prostitution advertise themselves”.

In view of this, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, through the General Directorate of Consumer Affairs, has sent sanction warnings to websites for being economic beneficiaries of the exercise of other people’s prostitution.

In them, the General Directorate of Consumer Affairs warns them that advertising prostitution -or content directly related to it such as “escort”, “companion” or “masseur” services- is a practice prohibited by the Organic Law of integral guarantee of the sexual freedom. This law, approved in September 2022, considers “advertising that uses gender stereotypes that encourage or normalise sexual violence against women, girls, boys and adolescents to be illegal” and also that which presents women “in a vexatious way, either using your body or parts of it specifically and directly as a mere object unrelated to the product that is intended to be promoted”.

For this reason, the ministry led by Alberto Garzón has required these web portals to “imminently” cease their infringing practices and remove the illegal advertising content. Failure to do so, their conduct would constitute a serious breach of consumer regulations that would lead to fines that can exceed 100,000 euro and even the closure of the aforementioned websites. According to the investigation led by the General Directorate of Consumption, which has examined 400 advertisements on prostitution and registered 5,600 data, 99.5% of the spots analysed have photographs of sexual content, 57% make direct references to the body of the advertiser their services and 62.5% use adjectives with sexual content in the ad text.

In addition, with the intention of trying to circumvent current legislation, the ads are mostly presented as “escort”, a term that appears on 90% of the websites analysed in the search filters and in the advertising spaces (banners) of the portals.

The sweep carried out by the Ministry has also made it possible to detect “connections” between the main websites that publish prostitution on the Internet, giving the circumstance that a third of those analysed belong to the same advertising company.

The prohibition on advertising of services such as “escorts” is not exclusive to the internet and extends to all methods of publication, such as newspapers and television.