UPDATED 7:27 PM PT – Friday, June 11, 2021
New data shows Facebook is the largest online recruitment site in active U.S. sex trafficking cases. This week, Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros said social media sites have become a dominant tool sex traffickers use to recruit victims for exploitation.
Data from the institute shows 30 percent of all victims identified in federal sex trafficking cases since the year 2000 were recruited online. Boutros added nearly 70 percent of child sex trafficking victims that were recruited on social media were contacted on Facebook.
The tech giant, which has faced major backlash regarding censorship, claimed they have policies in place to prevent sex trafficking. However, data shows that not enough is being done to prevent children and primarily women, from being trafficked.
(1/2) Is sex trafficking more prevalent than forced labor? Swipe through the graphics to find out. The #2020FedHTReport findings are not a prevalence estimate of trafficking. Download the Report now: https://t.co/zLEKOFn8UU #sextrafficking #labortrafficking #forcedlabor pic.twitter.com/DQUoKMMJxL
— Human Trafficking Institute (@TraffickingInst) June 9, 2021
In 2019, the family of a 12-year-old girl from Houston who was trafficked and not found until she was 15, sued Facebook for not protecting its younger users. The lawsuit claimed Facebook has no identity verification and had a weak warning system for human trafficking.
The study by the Human Trafficking Institute showed traffickers often prey on existing vulnerabilities in victims. Additionally, it said 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.
Sarah Cooper, a member of the survivors’ council of ECPAT-USA, an anti-child trafficking organization, 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.