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ANSWERED on Mon 28 Feb 2011 - 5:59 pm UTC by leader

Question: Legality of prostitution advertisement on the internet

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 23 Feb 2011 01:33 UTCWed 23 Feb 2011 - 1:33 am UTC 

Prostitution is legal in Canada, Republic of Ireland and Australia. Is advertisement of prostitution on the Internet legal in those countries?


David Sarokin 


 23 Feb 2011 02:55 UTCWed 23 Feb 2011 - 2:55 am UTC 


Internet law on any topic is amazingly complex and very unsettled, since there's so little case law on most topics that one can use to establish legal precedents.

A prostitution service in, say, Australia, hires a German company to design its website (with advertising!) and the site may be hosted in the US, and it may advertise services in Queensland and NSW, which have different laws on prostitution, some of which are more lenient about advertising than others.

The extent to which Australia, German and US federal law come into play, along with Queensland and NSW state law, is anyone's guess.

It's not entirely clear what you have in mind by internet advertising, since this can take many different forms.

Is there a particular reason you want to know the status of internet advertsing in these particular countries? Perhaps if we knew more about your interest, we could narrow down the scope of the research involved.






 28 Feb 2011 17:59 UTCMon 28 Feb 2011 - 5:59 pm UTC 


Most of us agree that laws concerning internet are somewhat vague. This also applies to the laws dictating advertisement of prostitution on the internet. Therefore, I will try to provide simple explanation that should offer a reasonable explanation of the issue.

Interestingly, most of the laws pertaining to prostitution were drafted before 1994. Consequently, most of these laws do not take into account internet as a medium of advertisement. It is also the reason why the public is often confused regarding the implications of internet laws.


In Australia, the laws of prostitution differ in almost every state. For example, the eastern block (NSW, VIC, QLD and ACT) allows regulated prostitution. On the other hand, western block prohibits such activities.

In Victoria, it is not illegal to advertise escort services and brothels therefore it can be deduced that internet advertisement of prostitution is not restricted. In this scenario, the advertiser is expected to use caution with wordings (Ref 1). Likewise, in Queensland advertisement of prostitution related activities is permitted, including the internet (Ref 2).

Please refer to Page 3 (table 2) of the following document for the laws regarding advertisements in different Australian states.

In regions where prostitution is mostly illegal, advertising such services can pose problems. Therefore advertisement of any sort in these regions, which doesn’t regulate prostitution, can be illegal. 

Last year, there were rumors that Western Australia was going to legalize prostitution. As a result, internet advertisement would have been deemed appropriate.

"All advertisements for prostitution would be restricted to the internet or classified sections of newspapers and would have to include licence numbers."(Ref 3).

Simply, if prostitution is regulated in a specific Australian State then internet advertisement isn’t a problem. On the other hand, it can be a criminal offense in other states (such as SA, TAS, WA, NT).


In Ireland, escort services are legal whereas brothels are illegal. There are many escort services in large Irish cities.

According to Section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 the advertisement of escort services is illegal. Actually, newspapers allowed such advertisements but it was rare. Anyone who advertises escort services will definitely take a risk.

Internet Advertising

Interestingly, internet advertising of escort services is rampant because well known Irish Escort agencies do not provide their address and probably operate from servers outside the country. In fact, it can be said that the practice of internet advertisement of escort agencies is widespread in Ireland. Almost all of the websites are hosted outside the country due to possible legal repercussions.

Regarding advertisement, the law states that, "A person who publishes or causes to be published or distributes or causes to be distributed an advertisement which advertises a brothel or the services of a prostitute in the State or any premises or service in the State in terms, circumstances or manner which gives rise to the reasonable inference that the premises is a brothel or that the service is one of prostitution shall be guilty of an offence."

Furthermore, "advertisement" includes every form of advertising or promotion, whether in a publication or by the display of notices or posters or by the means of circulars, leaflets, pamphlets or cards or other documents or by way of radio, television, computer monitor, telephone, facsimile transmission, photography or cinematography or other like means of communication" (Ref 4).



The law regarding ads on internet prostitution in Canada is most complex. The fact that rulings in Canada are mostly derived from case law therefore creating a proper legislation may need more effort as compared to Australia or Ireland.

Still, many prostitution services place ads on local newspapers and the internet. It is my personal view that authorities in Canada are more concerned with laws regarding child sex rather than creating a more structured version of prostitution law. Present set of rulings does not offer explanation of internet prostitution ads. (Ref 5)

Nevertheless, it seems that the rules in Canada are more relaxed than either Australia or Ireland. According to Global Toronto, a local newspaper, "many weekly newspapers in Canada carry explicit ads".. .classified ads for prostitutes were still being posted on Craigslist for Canadian cities in the theraputic services section. Price lists for various acts accompanied some postings, although without the sexually explicit pictures that had previously been offered." (Ref 6).


1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00476.x/pdf
2. http://www.pla.qld.gov.au/advertising/guidelinesApproveFormAdvertPros.htm
3. http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/prostitution-to-be-banned-from-suburbs-under-tough-new-laws-20101125-188j0.html
4. http://prostitution.procon.org/sourcefiles/IrelandCrimJustPubOrdAct1994.pdf
5. http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/CIR/822-e.htm#athedevelopmenttxt
6. http://www.globaltoronto.com/story.html?id=4005036

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I hope this answers your question. Please clarify if needed. Thanks.






 5 Mar 2011 15:41 UTCSat 5 Mar 2011 - 3:41 pm UTC 

Excellent response. Thank you.


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