How to Identify Sex Trafficking on Facebook Groups
Paul Gillespie, head of the Kids’ Internet Safety Alliance, stated “those who seek out children to exploit are very good at identifying those who may not have great self-esteem, loners, those who perhaps don’t have that adult male influence, and they will find them in these chat rooms, game rooms, web rooms and then they will move in.”
The Internet has been a prime location for older individuals in luring young women into human trafficking. As a way to escape the world, young adults and teens turn to the Internet to find the attention they so long desired. Being at their most vulnerable, the “pimps” jump in and provide empty promises, claiming that they’ll give them the attention that they want and promise to provide the best life for them, sometimes offering them a modeling or actress gig. Once the pimp gains the trust of the lost individual they offer them a free trip to meet face to face. Only the “free trip” isn’t at all what they expected. When they meet face to face, the lost individual is forced into the cycle of human trafficking, rarely able to find a way out.
There was an incident in 2009, where a 38-year-old man turned to Facebook to find girls that he could force into prostitution. When talking with the girls through the website he promised that he would help them become models if they came to the city. Once they agreed to do so, they were forced into prostitution upon their arrival. When police investigated they located four victims, aged 16 to 20.
Facebook groups have made it easier to find girls to bring into the sex trafficking ring. With the privacy settings provided, the creator of the group can either make it private or public. With the group being private if someone wants to join the group they have to be accepted by the person in charge. And with the public setting, anyone can read the posts that are created within the group. Using keywords like “sex 4 sale” or “young girl sex” you can find the groups that revolve around sex trafficking.
Here we used the keyword “escort” to find a group where human trafficking is present. When using the keyword one of the first groups that popped up was Mourine (female escort), where the group has only one administrator, who isn’t Mourine. In this group, the individual is offering a “clean and respectable beautiful ebony lady named Mourine” offering her services and more, claiming that if the buyer wants anything more than an escort, that they can negotiate a price. A red flag rises up when we find that Mourine isn’t a member nor is her opinion included in the about section. Everything that happens through that group goes through one individual.
When identifying human trafficking through Facebook groups another thing to look at is the member list. Some of the groups have mostly men with only a couple of girls, who are very young. Look at the postings within the group; are the men the ones who are talking negotiations? Or is everyone in the group involved in the discussions? Noticing the small things, even ones that don’t seem at all that important could help save the lives of victims stuck in human trafficking.