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.
Tay may also use information you share with her to create a simple profile to personalize your experience.
Data and conversations you provide to Tay are anonymized and may be retained for up to one year to help improve the service.
But if a would-be buyer signals an intent to purchase sex, the bot pivots sharply into a stern message.“Buying sex from anyone is illegal and can cause serious long term harm to the victim, as well as further the cycle of human trafficking,” goes one such message.
“Details of this incident will be reviewed further and you may be contacted by law enforcement for questioning.” The warning can vary based on the conversation, if, for example, a potential buyer expresses an interest in someone underage.
“It’s really accelerated our ability to reach people,” says Amanda Hightower, executive director of nonprofit Real Escape from the Sex Trade, or REST.
The new tools arrive as nonprofits and law enforcement devote more attention to stifling the demand that leads to sex trafficking.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, says they could help expand the reach of anti-trafficking efforts.
Research in Phoenix has shown that on average a single online sex ad attracts 63 potential buyers.
The chatbot, tested recently in Seattle, Atlanta, and Washington, lurks behind fake online ads for sex posted by nonprofits working to combat human trafficking, and responds to text messages sent to the number listed.
The software initially pretends to be the person in the ad, and can converse about its purported age, body, fetish services, and pricing.
You can ask Tay for a joke, play a game, ask for a story, send a picture to receive a comment back, ask for your horoscope and more.