January 30, 2018

How Stripping, Prostitution, and Sex Trafficking Occurs Through Snapchat

In addition to Snapchat’s troubling association with the normalization of sexting, Snapchat has facilitated the monetization of sexting thanks to the advent of Snapcash, an in-app way to exchange money.

Question: What do you call a sexual performance conducted in exchange for money?

Answer: Prostitution, pornography, stripping…and sometimes even sex trafficking.

Increasingly, pornography performers and strippers are using Snapchat to send videos and photos of themselves naked for a fee.[1]

And now thanks to the Snapcash and Snapchat, young people already accustomed to oversharing the private details of their lives with the public, conditioned to accept sexting as the new standard in dating and relationships, and well-acquainted with Internet pornography, the step towards prostitution via the commodification of sexts and sex is a small one.

In this light, the case involving two teenagers who set up their own high school prostitution ring utilizing Facebook, Snapchat, and Kik Messenger, is not so surprising.[2]

As reported by the McAfee Institute,

“Ever since the implementation of snap cash (sic), Google Wallet, and other payment options, more people are buying adult entertainment on snap chat. It’s almost like a live porn hub. It is a pretty simple operation.  There are plenty of ways to search for people that are selling nudes, videos, and chat on snap chat.”[3]

Another writer expressed it this way: “With Snapcash, the creators of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, are essentially promoting prostitution.”[4]

Clearly, Snapchat and Snapcash can now be counted among the technological advances propelling the move of prostitution from beyond the street corner to the Internet and smartphone, and the normalization of prostitution on a massive scale.

This fact is greatly concerning as any act of prostitution is a form of sexual coercion. Legal scholar Catherine McKinnon has explained it this way, “In these transactions, the money coerces the sex rather than guaranteeing consent to it, making prostitution a practice of serial rape.”[5]

Even more disconcerting is the potential role Snapchat/Snapcash may be playing in snapchat-snapcash-prostitution-porn-stripping-traffickingthe facilitation of sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking involves the exploitation of an individual in the commercial sex industry where the victim is expected to provide commercial sex acts on demand. Commercial sex acts are any sex acts on account of which anything of value (e.g. money, clothes, shelter, food, drugs, etc.) is given to or received by any person.

Tragically, even cases of sex trafficking have been linked to sexual predators lurking on Snapchat.[6] While this is by no means a common occurrence (at least as indicated by news reports), it is yet another indicator of the links between Snapchat/Snapcash and sexual harm.

We hope that facts like these will cause Snapchat to fix its policies in the following ways:

1. .@Snapchat please allow users to opt-out of publisher content on Discover! #NoThanksSnapchat Click To Tweet

2. .@Snapchat please provide prominent in-app reporting systems for users to report those that send or promote sexually exploitive content #NoThanksSnapchat Click To Tweet

3. .@Snapchat please make a clear policy that promotion of porn and prostitution is in violation of Snapchat’s Terms of Use #NoThanksSnapchat Click To Tweet

ACTION ALERT: You can email Snapchat to ask them to create these policy changes by filling out the form below:


[1] Nick Bilton, “Strippers Go Undercover on Snapchat,” The New York Times (February 25, 2015), https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/style/strippers-go-undercover-on-snapchat.html (accessed February 19, 2017).

[2] Isabel Mascarenas and Danica Lawrence, “Police: Teen Girl Sets Up High School Prostitution Ring,” WTSP-TV, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/25/high-school-prostitution/70114384/ (accessed February 20, 2017).

[3] McAfee Institute, “Locating Prostitution on Snapchat,” (n.d.), http://blog.mcafeeinstitute.com/locating-prostitution-snapchat/ (accessed February 19, 2017).

[4] Anthony Catezone, “Column: Snapchat: Leading the Way in Promoting New Age Prostitution,” Daily Eastern News, (November 20, 2014), http://www.dailyeasternnews.com/2014/11/20/column-snapchat-leading-the-way-in-promoting-new-age-prostitution/ (accessed February 19, 2017).

[5] Catherine McKinnon, “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 46 (2011): 271–309, http://harvardcrcl.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/MacKinnon.pdf (accessed February 21, 2017).

[6] Kate Briquelet, “Dad Saves Daughter from Snapchat Sex Traffickers,” The Daily Beast (October, 10, 2016) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/10/dad-saves-daughter-from-snapchat-sex-traffickers.html (accessed February 20, 2017).  Maryam Shah, “Snapchat Meeting Led to Woman Being Forced into Sex Trade: Cops” Toronto Sun (July 20, 2016), http://www.torontosun.com/2016/07/20/snapchat-meeting-led-to-woman-being-forced-into-sex-trade-cops (accessed February 20, 2017).

National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health crisis of pornography.

Further Reading

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