Conflict in the Middle East, cyber attacks on federal servers, and cold war era rivalries sparking up again have dominated the headlines over the past several years and been a focus for the Department of Homeland Security. However, the job of homeland security entails more than simply responding to external threats to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens. They must also examine potential domestic threats, situations where Americans put their neighbors at risk and engage with crime that stretches across the border.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security took a stab at prostitution by shutting down the popular website Rentboy.com and arresting its executive officer, Jeffrey Hurrant, and six others under charges of promoting prostitution. Rentboy has operated for nearly 20 years as a space for male escorts to advertise their services. Rentboy denies allegations that it specifically promotes prostitution, advertising only for escort services. However, internal communications have shown that it is well known that escorts engage in sexual activity with clients, and that this organization promotes these activities
This is not the first time the DHS has taken steps against prostitution rings in the U.S. Eric Omuro, proprietor of MyRedBook.com in California was arrested last year under similar charges. Additionally, he had been advertising for child prostitutes, a clear case of exploiting minors for monetary gain.
There have been some allegations from the gay community that the takedown of Rentboy.com specifically targeted gay Americans. The DHS has denied that any particular group was specifically targeted and further explained that prostitution is not just illegal but also promotes other activities like human trafficking, child exploitation, and money laundering.
Hurrant and his compatriots trial’s in the Rentboy case may act as an example for future cases against proponents of prostitution in the United States. The results of the Rentboy trial will influence how online prostitution sites are prosecuted for years to come.