Its ugly, bare-bones design was straight out of the early 2000s.It resembled a web page you might use to find a new job or a secondhand bike.In 2012 Twitter installed its lavish new headquarters in an old art deco building on Market Street, kicking off a surge of corporate moves to the area by the likes of Uber, Spotify, Yammer, and Square.In turn, hundreds of young tech workers have recently relocated to the Tenderloin and are rapidly changing the economics of a neighborhood that has managed to resist gentrification for decades.If you were careful to stay away from the sections where photos automatically displayed, you could easily browse potential sex partners at work and your coworkers would never suspect a thing. The site's naughty classifieds section contained the sort of ads that used to be the sole domain of alt weeklies' back pages: “*College Girl Gone Wild* (BUSTY SMART BLONDE),” “Sexy & Sweet Asian Here to Please Your Needs,” and “Morning $pecials Daddy Let Me Blow Your Mind.” While ads were free to post, advertisers could opt to pay for premium placement. While the site's most popular forums had names like “Escort 411,” “Street Action,” and “Domination Station,” Red Book also hosted conversations on topics ranging from baseball to bondage, music to massage parlors.Bruce Boston, a data scientist who works for one of Silicon Valley's major tech companies, initially came to the site to find out which strip clubs had the best dancers.
Instead of a directory of links to sexy ads, forums, and reviews, they saw a dire-looking alert from the Department of Justice, FBI, and IRS stating that Red Book's domain had been seized.The US attorney's office declined to offer any comment, but its indictment speaks for itself.Both Omuro and Lanoce initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, but in November Lanoce changed her plea in the hope that it might allow her to avoid a felony sentence in exchange for good behavior.Omuro also added a key functionality—he made it possible for sex workers to advertise their services.Red Book may have been full of racy talk and the promise of erotic assignations, but the site itself was anything but sexy.You might mistake her for a lady on her way out to buy groceries, except she's wearing cartoonishly thick lipstick and heavy eye makeup, especially striking in the middle of the day. A guy on a Harley stops at a red light, and the woman lewdly thrusts her hips in his direction. But when Red Book was shut down, the people who were hit the hardest weren't the buyers, but the sellers—sex workers like Cathy for whom the site had made the world's oldest profession significantly less risky.The biker rides on, and a police truck pulls up alongside us. She walks toward the car and leans her head into his open window. I step off the curb and quickly cross illegally in the middle of the street. One of the ways the site reduced danger for workers was by making it easier for them to weed out bad dates, from poor tippers to full-on abusive creeps.You could pay a month for access to the section, where VIP customers shared detailed write-ups of their experiences with escorts, BDSM providers, and erotic masseuses.As part of their reviews, users listed the services they received, as well as details about the provider's physical attributes.Launched in 1999 by a Mountain View, California, tech entrepreneur named Eric “Red” Omuro, Red Book began as a modest hub for mongers (Internet slang for johns) to discuss the local scene and post reviews of escorts.As it grew, the site expanded beyond the Bay Area, adding sections for Southern California, the Central Coast, Phoenix, Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest.