So far, the chatbot has exchanged 14,000 messages with nearly 1,000 people who responded to the planted ads.In about half those cases it heard enough to deliver a warning message.“If law enforcement perform stings in a city they might get a few dozen people, but we know there have to be thousands and thousands of guys out there looking to buy sex,” says Robert Beiser, executive director of Seattle Against Slavery.
The technology is not a product of Microsoft itself.
It harvests phone numbers from real online sex ads, and automatically sends messages to sex workers offering support or assistance getting out of the trade.
Responses are routed to an experienced nonprofit employee or volunteer.
Roe-Sepowitz says that while education and deterrence make sense, it’s been hard to prove what tactics are most effective.
When detectives in Phoenix used fake ads to surprise people looking to buy sex, nearly half of callers who were contacted by a cop later called another spoof ad.