UPDATED 8:45 AM PT – Saturday, June 12, 2021
New data has shown Facebook to be the largest online recruitment site in active U.S. sex trafficking cases. This week, Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros reported social media sites have become a dominant tool sex traffickers use to recruit victims for exploitation.
Data from the institute determined 30 percent of all victims identified in federal sex trafficking cases since the year 2000 were recruited online.
“They often recruit them on a number of common social networking sites. Facebook is overwhelmingly used to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases,” he explained. “They are by far the largest. 59 percent of those cases involved recruitment from Facebook.”
Boutros added nearly 70 percent of child sex trafficking victims who were recruited on social media were recruited on Facebook. The tech giant, which has faced major backlash regarding censorship, has claimed there are policies in place to prevent sex trafficking. Although data has shown not enough is being done to prevent children and primarily women from being trafficked.
The 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report is out today marking the 20th anniversary of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Check it out at: https://t.co/9MEjVfKhc1 #2020FedHTReport #TVPA #EndHumanTrafficking pic.twitter.com/8x8cgpRQVB
— U.S. Attorney Alaska (@USAO_AK) June 9, 2021
In 2019, a Houston family of a 12-year-old girl, who was trafficked and not found until she was 15, sued Facebook for not protecting its younger users. The lawsuit accused Facebook of having no identity verification as well as a weak warning system for human trafficking.
Lawyer Annie McAdams went on to explain, “The basis of this lawsuit was Facebook’s knowing facilitation of human trafficking.”
The study by the Human Trafficking Institute also reported traffickers often prey on existing vulnerabilities in victims. Despite the common idea that traffickers are large group networks that exploit a large number of victims, the reality is that most traffickers operate individually and exploit small numbers of victims at a time.
In February, Facebook reported more than 20 million child sexual abuse images were found on its platform and Instagram in 2020.
Sarah Cooper, a member of the survivors’ council of the anti-child trafficking organization ECPAT-USA, requested the tech giant prepare a report of sex trafficking on the platform for investors and immediately make improvements to keep users safe. However, the proposal lost and the board opposed the move.