According to Newsweek, emails sent to brothels and pimps between 2014 and 2016 document the industry's patronage of brothels and purchasing of services from trafficked sex workers. Among the emails, which were obtained through a public records request to the King County Prosecutor's Office, were 67 sent from Microsoft employee email accounts, 63 from Amazon accounts and dozens more from companies like Boeing, T-Mobile, Oracle and local Seattle tech firms.
The emails were collected during a 2015 sting operation that targeted sex worker review boards and resulted in the arrest of 18 individuals, including high-level Amazon and Microsoft directors. Two opted for a trial, which is currently set to begin in March.
Some Seattle geeks spend up to $50,000 per year on sex workers, and some brothels advertise how close they are to tech offices.
Alex Trouteaud, director of policy and research at the anti-trafficking organisation Demand Abolition, told Newsweek that the tech industry is a "culture that has readily embraced trafficking".
In a statement sent to Newsweek, Microsoft said, "Microsoft has a long history of cooperating with law enforcement and other agencies on combating sex trafficking and related topics, and we have employees who volunteer their time and money specifically to combat this issue as well. The personal conduct of a tiny fraction of our 125,000 employees does not in any way represent our culture. No organisation is immune to the unfortunate situation when employees act unethically or illegally. When that happens, we look into the conduct and take appropriate action. Microsoft makes it clear to our employees they have a responsibility to act with integrity and conduct themselves legally and ethically at all times. If they don't, they risk losing their jobs."
Amazon told Newsweek it's investigating the matter and said: "Amazon's Owner's Manual clearly states that 'It is against Amazon's policy for any employee or Contingent Worker to engage in any sex buying activities of any kind in Amazon's workplace or any work-related setting outside of the workplace, such as during business trips, business meetings or business-related social events.' When Amazon suspects that an employee has used company funds or resources to engage in criminal conduct, the company will immediately investigate and take appropriate action up to and including termination. The company may also refer the matter to law enforcement."