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Stockholm police recently told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that sex workers were using as many as apartments listed on Airbnb and other subletting services. It's a major identity thing for Swedish people. They love being the moral compass of the world. It's a little like the US.
In , Sweden made it legal to sell sex but illegal to buy it. Norway and Iceland adopted similar laws. Canada and Ireland are debating similar versions. The UK attempted to bring in a similar model but it was voted down at the eleventh hour. News that prostitutes are booking apartments online via Airbnb undercuts the gains boasted about by the government, said Jakobsson.
Under Swedish law, authorities can charge someone with pimping if they knowingly rent a room to a prostitute, Jakobsson added. That's why the cops send hosts letters — and it's also probably why the hosts get nervous when they receive them, she said. Airbnb might be a way to get around the pimping laws, Jacobsson added, because the website — not a person — is arranging the accommodations, she said.
In another recent Dagens Nyheter article about prostitution in Gothenburg , Airbnb issued a statement saying it didn't sanction illegal activities. If problems arise, we work quickly to take care of our hosts and guests and to permanently shut down users who abuse our platform and community.
Jakobssen drew a parallel between how police wanted to crack down on prostitution and how officials around the world want to regulate Airbnb, Uber, and other companies in the sharing economy. The government is inclined to raise questions about any business that involves people transacting money beyond the gaze of tax collectors, the police, or other regulators, she said.