Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Social media has not only been used to lure human trafficking victims, but also to sell them into the sex industry and even the labor industry. Traffickers can essentially remain anonymous and use any persona they choose.
The Human Trafficking Hotline has recorded recruitment on Facebook, Instagram, MeetMe.com, Kik, Instagram, SnapChat, Whatsapp, and dating sites/apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Plenty of Fish. They also use Craigslist and Backdoor. If you receive a friend request from someone you don't know, block them immediately. It doesn't matter if the person appears to be female, women can be traffickers, too. If you recive a message from a friend, verify that it is them. I have received many messages from who I thought was a Facebook friend, but was actually someone impersonating them. You should notify your friend and the social media platform immediately! Then block the impersonator.
“If just one of them answers … traffickers can make thousands of dollars off that girl very quickly,” said Andrea Powell, founder and director of FAIR Girls, a U.S.-based NGO which helps trafficked girls worldwide.
Powell said a growing trend in the United States is to use WhatsApp or Snapchat where messages evaporate over time.
“In some cases you have really stupid traffickers who leave mountains and mountains of email trails,” said Powell, “But most of the time everything’s done through different applications on different sites so law enforcement is having to learn how to use these … It’s a whole different ballgame.”
FAIR Girls said about 90 percent of the people it helped in Washington D.C. and Maryland had been sold online. Most of them had been sexually abused and were in foster care, with traffickers getting a psychological hold on them.
What Can You Do?
To combat traffickers, experts say more children should be targeted in public awareness campaigns through social media, and vulnerable children encouraged to speak to trustworthy people. This is one of the goals for The Silent Voices Project, to educate the public on what trafficking really looks like and how people are being lured.
You also need to monitor what your kids are doing online and who they are talking to daily. Find out how to find deleted messages on their phone and social media accounts. Don't ever think that your child would never talk to someone they don't know, a lot of parents have thought that and now their children are victims.
Stay on top of what methods human traffickers are using to lure people. Use survivor's stories to keep yourself and your family safe. Traffickers aren't just taking poor children from bad homes, they are targeting anyone they think can make them money!