UPDATE: the website written about in this blog has been deleted.
I found out about http://potentialprostitutes.com/ from a YouTube video I saw today and I immediately saw that this could be a scam.
The website claims
Currently we operate based on the efforts from motivated members of their local community who have at one point or another come into contact with a potential prostitute online and feel they can be a threat. All of our offenders have been reported by local members who feel these offenders should be taught a lesson before their actions escalate.The website offers a search engine where you can lookup "potential prostitutes" in your area or anywhere else in the world. Submissions to the site are anonymous, with no proof required that the person being reported is, in fact, a prostitute or a sex worker of any kind. In fact, there is real potential for stalkers to post their victims' names and phone numbers to the site as a form of harassment.
Aside from tormenting their victims, there is no financial motivation to add content to the site, as they do not pay money for submissions.
To have a "report" removed from the site, they require cash payment of $99.95 to be made to them before they will do so. Also, there is nothing to prevent them from simply posting it again in the future. As a result, a totally innocent person could spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to remove libelous posts from this site with absolutley no guarantee that the removal will be permanent.
Supposedly, this site's goal is to help people "protect themselves" from becoming victims of these "potential prostitutes. But, with no verification process to ensure that the people whose information is posted there are in fact prostitutes, it simply serves as a possible venue for harassment and libel against innocent victims.
The website's owners claim to have been sued many times by individuals who were angry over their faces, phone numbers and cities of residence being posted there, but has always won their cases, due to protections afforded them by the Communications Decency Act, which provides them immunity from liability since the posts on their site are from people using it, not the website creators themselves. However, a number of issues show that both of these claims might not be true.
As far as having been sued "on many occasions", the website itself was only recently created, back in October 2012, according to a WHOIS search of their domain. As also noted on the search, their IP address shows that the site is run from Europe, specifically Germany, and so it would be German law, not US law that governs liability. The site's administrative contact is a Swedish national, not an American.
Due to the European source of potentialprostitutes.com, they would be under the legal jurisdiction of courts in their respective countries and not entitled to the protections of US law.
Add to this the fact that they require payment to be made to remove any content, even if the person mentioned on their site is totally innocent of any crime. This can be construed as blackmail, which can have consequences for the site owners in civil and criminal courts of any country.
The site also uses pictures taken by individuals other than either the site owners or the users. Some of the pictures posted were taken either by the individuals named, professional photographers or by a government agency. That being the case, they could find themselves on the receiving end of legal action being taken against them under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, since photographs are the legal property of the person who took them.
Potentialprostitutes is owned by the same people who run http://predatorswatch.com and both sites claim to want to protect people from becoming crime victims. Their Facebook page has already been deleted, but they have a Twitter account available which has not been used siince October 2012.
One possibility of this site's possible future use will be as a save haven for prostitutes who want to advertise themselves, if Backpage is pressured to remove their Adult Services sections. Given that posting is free, while Backpage costs money to use, Potentialprostitutes would look very attractive to pimps eager to save every dollar they can.