Lust my way: China's 'Google Maps' under scanner for showing brothel locations

China's Google Maps counterpart, Baidu Maps has become a front for prostitution in China.

baidu maps used for sex trade
People are taken away during a police raid, as part of plans to crackdown on prostitution, from a hotel in Dongguan, Guangdong province, February 9, 2014. Reuters

Chinese authorities have intercepted China's Google Maps counterpart, Baidu Maps, after finding out that the software has been used as a front for the sex trade. A state-run media outlet in the country has learned that Baidu Maps shows search results related to establishments that offer sexual services.

The South China Morning Post reports that Baidu Inc's mapping service is being used rampantly by patrons as a front in looking for sexual services in the world's most populous city, Shanghai. Baidu, China's Google counterpart, can give users a list of institutions in Shanghai offering such services.

Daily Legal, a state-owned community newspaper in the city, first reported of the trade, revealing that keyword searching on Baidu Maps makes it easy for customers to find prostitutes. In a test, the keyword 'sauna' and 'massage', which are popularly used as a front for prostitution, generated more than 2,600 results in Shanghai alone.

These establishments are using bogus and false addresses to throw authorities off the track. If the customer calls the displayed contact number, the middlemen referred to as 'PRs' will then divulge the actual physical address of the business. In an investigation conducted by the paper, brothels have price lists for women costing up to US$375 for their service.

The Morning Post says establishments pay Baidu around US$3,000 per month as a fee for the illicit advertisement. The cost to keep one's business in Baidu Maps results is hefty, but they will be able to get it back from 400 sex patrons, one PR tells the publication identified as Li Jing.

Li says the sex trade through Baidu Maps has become a more effective platform for their businesses to reach out to a vast audience. Li reveals he has 20 locations on the mapping service.

Baidu issued a statement on its official Weibo account saying it removed all brothels hiding as legitimate business establishments.

This article was first published on August 11, 2017