At Vivastreet, our top priority is to provide a safe and trusted platform for our community. At its heart, that means operating our platform in a responsible manner, promoting safety and security, and working collaboratively with partners.
Supporting sex workers
Vivastreet allows users to post adverts for a broad range of goods and services, and we know that sex workers also use our platform. Sex work is legal in the UK, and sex workers can use online platforms to advertise their services. Nevertheless, we recognise that there are significant risks involved with carrying such adverts, as their presence may lead to those involved in trafficking or exploitation seeking to misuse our platform.
We stand against exploitation in all its forms, and we believe strongly that any business operating in the adult sector has a responsibility to understand and mitigate the risks involved.
We take our responsibilities in this area seriously, and our commitment to user safety and wellbeing includes operating robust safety checks and security measures, as well as working closely with stakeholders such as law enforcement, policy makers, and the voluntary sector. Our annual transparency report sets out the steps we have taken over the past year to meet our responsibilities, while this page explains our broader approach to promoting user safety and wellbeing.
Our Transparency Report for 2022 is available to view here.
Our safety and security measures:
We have a robust and multi-stage risk assessment process in place for all accounts on our site, to ensure that we are protecting our users and detecting and eradicating illegal or inappropriate use of our platform. We work with charity and law enforcement partners to ensure that we follow best practice as we identify, flag, remove, review, and report illegal or offensive material.
All adverts are automatically screened for any content that violates our Terms and Conditions or indicates potentially problematic activity. In addition, we maintain a list of prohibited terms and wider risk factors pertaining to potential harm and exploitation, which are regularly updated. We ensure that all adverts are screened for these prohibited terms and risk factors, with a view to identifying and reviewing potentially harmful content.
Advertisers must be 18 years of age or older to register or use the services available from Vivastreet. We use Yoti, a third-party verification system that includes enhanced phone, email, and age verification, for advertisers on our site who fall into certain higher-risk groups.
We encourage users to report any issues or concerns about adverts directly to Vivastreet, by using the ‘Report this Ad’ feature found on all adverts on the platform, while we also have a feature that allows users to report any concerns of exploitation directly to Unseen, the charity that operates the Modern Slavery Helpline.
Vivastreet’s dedicated team of moderators, who carry out human moderation on our site, are a crucial part of our ongoing work to combat exploitation. We constantly look for opportunities to learn from the best practice of others and all our customer-facing and compliance stuff receive training from a variety of law enforcement agencies, as well as from the specialist charity, Stop the Traffik.
Working with law enforcement:
We view cooperation with law enforcement as essential to tackling exploitation, and as such we work closely with police forces in the UK and internationally, meeting regularly with agencies such as the National Crime Agency (NCA).
We proactively report any content that raises suspicions about potential illegality to law enforcement and have a formal referral pathway in place with national policing in each nation of the UK.
We provide extensive and detailed supporting witness statements, where these are requested by police, and ensure that an appropriate member of our staff attends court to give witness testimony, where necessary. We are proud of our proactive, industry-leading work in this area, which has helped to secure a number of convictions over recent years.
In addition to proactive law enforcement referrals, we also operate a request service, allowing officers to contact us quickly to request information. We undertake to provide information in response to police requests within 48 hours, and we have a mailbox that is monitored 24/7 for police inquiries, so that officers can contact us in relation to cases where they believe there is an imminent threat to safety.
We constantly evaluate our policies, and where we are asked to do so by the police, we take steps to block users identified as high risk.
Working with the charity sector:
We work hard to deepen our understanding of the challenges that our users face, and how we can support them to work in the safest possible manner. We therefore engage closely with a range of sex worker support groups across the country, as well as other relevant third sector organisations, to ensure that we constantly augment our knowledge of the sector and build trust with the community.
Through this work we maintain partnerships with a number of organisations:
National Ugly Mugs (NUM)
We have been working with specialist charity National Ugly Mugs (NUM) since 2015, providing all our advertisers with free membership of NUM. We understand that one of the reasons many sex workers use our platform to advertise online is that it provides a safer environment in which to operate and vet clients, and NUM membership gives users access to NUM’s online warning system, as well as help with reporting incidents. Through this partnership sex workers receive alerts on dangerous individuals in and around their location, enabling them to screen clients more effectively.
We value this partnership with NUM extremely highly. Through our work together we look to help those who see sex work as a positive career choice work as safely as possible, while identifying and supporting those who carry out sex work because they face challenging personal circumstances. Together with NUM we are exploring ways to further support this second group, through dedicated wellbeing and career services, as part of a pioneering new partnership to help those who wish to transition out of sex work do so in a supportive and non-judgemental environment.
ClientEye is a safety app, created in 2018, which allows sex workers to screen phone numbers of potential clients to see if they are associated with negative reports made by others in the community. Reports can cover a range of issues, from no-shows to abusive clients.
As part of our commitment to sex worker safety, Vivastreet partners with ClientEye, providing financial support and advertising space for this invaluable, sex worker-led tool. We also provide any customer advertising in our Escort and Massage category access to the ClientEye service for free, via the Vivastreet platform.
Unseen and the Modern Slavery Helpline
Vivastreet works in partnership with Unseen, the charity that operates the UK’s Modern Slavery Helpline. Vivastreet users can report any concerns about potential exploitation via a ‘Concerns of Exploitation’ button on each advert. Any reports made using this feature go directly to Unseen, who use their experience and expertise in this area to promptly respond to the issue.
To support those in the community who may be facing financial hardship, Vivastreet partner with specialist charity IncomeMax.
IncomeMax is a social enterprise company that helps people to maximise their household income, through uncovering their eligibility for certain benefits and allowances. The partnership has so far uncovered hundreds of thousands of pounds of unclaimed benefits and eligible income for sex workers, providing valuable support to those concerned.
Stop the Traffik
Vivastreet commissioned specialist charity Stop the Traffik to develop industry-first training programmes for all Vivastreet customer-facing staff on how to spot potential harm and how best to handle such circumstances. We continue to work closely with Stop the Traffik to strengthen our risk mitigation framework and safeguarding procedures on a regular basis.
In addition to direct partnerships with the voluntary sector, we also maintain a Support Services Hub through which we signpost to our users’ specialist charities and organisations who can provide advice and support on everything from health and safety through to financial, legal and employment issues. We offer free banner advertising to local sex worker safety and outreach organisations on our website, and these banners are displayed to sex workers as they fill out their advertisement.
Working with the Government:
We engage closely with relevant government departments and national authorities, to support efforts to boost sex worker wellbeing, reduce the risks associated with sex work, and prevent exploitation.
We work with the Home Office and have helped co-design a set of Voluntary Principles for Adult Services Websites (ASWs), which aim to raise standards across the industry by setting clear responsibilities for platforms.
These principles require ASWs to take all reasonable and practicable steps to prevent exploitation on their platforms and set out best practice for identifying suspicious material on sites, engaging with law enforcement agencies, and implementing robust safeguarding processes.
Our engagement with these stakeholders also includes a focus on the forthcoming Online Safety Bill. We support this legislation, which is directed towards imposing new regulatory standards upon online platforms, and which is currently proceeding through Parliament.
Further information about our engagement with government, and its impact, can be found in our annual Transparency Report.