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Social Media and Sex Trafficking

Where Can Online Trafficking Be Found?

The world of social media has grown exponentially in the last few years. As of last year the average person spends about two hours and 15 minutes a day on social media, with that number expected to increase. It has gone from individuals having just a Myspace, to having Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and many more. This also means the crowd using these applications are getting younger and younger. With social media reaching all corners of the globe, human trafficking has found it’s home in it. Websites that have been around for years have also become a place for trafficking to thrive. These include Craigslist and formerly Backpage- where it is not uncommon to see women and children for sale.

The two most common types of online trafficking recruitment are gaining trust and a relationship with a stranger, or answering ads related to jobs or opportunities. Here are two examples:

  • A young girl gets a Facebook friend request from a stranger but it looks like he lives in the same city so she accepts. They communicate often and he gains her trust. He convinces her to run away and she becomes a victim of trafficking.
  • A woman from Poland finds a job posting offering a modeling contract in New York City. She buys a ticket to the U.S. and shows up to the “office” only to find it’s not what it seems. The modeling agent convinces her she must see “clients” in order to be taken on as a model. She becomes trafficked.

Online Recruitment and Staying Safe

In a study done in 2015 it was found that younger survivors were more likely to be recruited online. Not only is the recruitment happening online, but it is easier for these women to be trafficked out on the web once they are part of the system. 63% of survivors in a test group reported they were advertised online, with the primary forms of contact being phone calls and text messages.

Today teenagers have grown up with an online presence so they are more likely to create friendships and trust strangers through social media. It’s becoming increasingly important to teach children how to stay safe online. Here are some important safety tips to implement in your home.

  • Never share personal information such as address, phone number
  • Set time limits for children
  • Block chat room access
  • Monitor websites being used
  • Turn off location services
  • Do not answer postings that are “too good to be true”
  • Children should never meet up with someone they met online
  • If they ever feel unsafe, a child should report it to an adult

The Future of Online Trafficking

The term “modern slavery” could not be truer with how much trafficking is now being done online. From being recruited to being pimped out, so much is happening through websites and social media. This goes to show just how prominent trafficking is in every day life. However, just this year two bills, FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act), were signed into law to make waves in putting an end to this 21st century problem. This law now holds websites accountable for allowing sex work ads to be on their sites. By removing this avenue for sex trafficking it will hopefully make a significant dent on the business. It is not only important to support the political side, but to help in your every day. If you find suspicious ads or profiles online report them to the application or website. You can also educate everyone in your life on how to have a safer online presence.

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