In Belgium, 60 underage girls – and there could be more – are forced into prostitution every year. Most of them are advertised on escort websites on which they pose as adults. But no matter how thoroughly the escort sites screen their ads to keep out minors, they can never 100% prevent it. The correct age is sometimes very difficult to estimate and advertisements can slip through the net and a minor is presented as an adult.
The XXXtra Age Check
A tool to fight back against the sexual exploitation of minors
- Child Focus
Child Focus, also known as the European Center for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, and Wunderman Thompson Antwerp are collaborating to fight back against the sexual exploitation of children and draw attention to the problem of minors on escort websites.
Child Focus set up a unique partnership with Redlights – Belgium’s biggest escort site representing 90% of the market with a staggering 152,000 visitors a day.
Hacking into the age verification on escort websites, Wunderman Thompson came up with the XXXtra Age Check – an extra addition to the age verification visitors must complete on every escort site before they can continue their visit. After indicating if they are 18 or older, a second pop-up appears, now with the question, "But even more important, is she 18 or older?" along with a picture of a minor or adult girl. It's up to the visitor to correctly estimate the age, where they discover that it's anything but obvious.
With the quiz presented at each visit, it becomes difficult to know if a sex worker is of age or not, which is why visitors are advised to always double-check age and ask for proof of identity. Through the pop-up, you can also click an online form to anonymously report a minor in a prostitution situation.
Our idea makes site visitors contributors in the fight against sexual exploitation of minors and helps reveal underage sex workers, rather than blindly stigmatizing them as perpetrators.
The campaign has reached millions of Europeans and helped keep escort site visitors from making a horrible mistake.
With over 10 million visitors in Belgium – a number that continues to rise – and quiz questions that only 53% of site visitors answered correctly, the campaign has proven its importance.
The XXXtra Age Check was launched not only on the Redlights website but also on its French-speaking counterpart, and thanks to the close collaboration between Child Focus and various international partners, the awareness tool has been made available to escort sites around the world.