The latest issue of the annual Federal Human Trafficking Report shows how traffickers take advantage of social media sites to find victims, and Facebook alone accounts for more than half of traffickers' online recruitment.
The 2020 report from the Human Trafficking Institute looks at every trafficking case in the federal court system during the year, during which there were 165 new cases and a total of 579 active criminal human trafficking cases to analyze. 93 percent of cases last year were sex trafficking cases, while the other seven percent were forced labor cases.
Noting "traffickers in 2020 active cases recruited their victims from a variety of physical locations, the internet was the most common... as has been the case every year since 2013," the Institute found 59 percent of online victim recruitment took place on Facebook.
Did you know the internet is a major platform for traffickers to recruit sex trafficking victims and solicit buyers of commercial sex.? Learn more about human trafficking at https://t.co/9MEjVfKhc1 #EndHumanTrafficking #2020FedHTReport pic.twitter.com/4kfNReJoGa— U.S. Attorney Alaska (@USAO_AK) June 10, 2021
Facebook is "by far the most frequently referenced website or app in public sources connected with these prosecutions, which was also true in 2019," the report adds.
"Surprisingly, despite Facebook's reputation as a less popular platform among teenagers, it was a more common platform for recruiting child victims than adult victims in 2020 active sex trafficking cases. In fact, 65% (68) of child victims recruitment on social media were recruited through Facebook, compared to just 36% (10) of adults."
The Human Trafficking Institute also found that Facebook-owned Instagram was responsible for 14 percent of child recruitment and 13 percent of overall website and app recruitment of human trafficking victims.
A recent report by NBC News detailed how coyotes use public Facebook pages to illegally smuggle individuals into the United States, in a troubling "growing" trend.
"Travel to Mexico to the United States. Costs $8,000. 100 percent safe," reads a recent post written in Spanish. "Cross through Matamoros. You walk one hour, after in automobile until you arrive to your relative."
The Facebook pages reviewed by NBC "had multiple posts a day: some from apparent smugglers, also known as coyotes, posting ads, others from desperate Central Americans seeking information about how best to immigrate to the U.S."
Tonight on @NBCNightlyNews:— Jacob Ward (@byjacobward) June 10, 2021
We went to a shelter in Mexico to speak with Central American families about their efforts to get across the border. It turns out, according to a new report by @TTP_updates, that there's a vast, thriving market for coyotes on Facebook and WhatsApp. pic.twitter.com/hzlFtpwfgx
A spokesperson told NBC that Facebook's policies prohibit human exploitation and trafficking and that the company removes such content when it is identified or flagged by users. As evidenced by the Human Trafficking Institute's report, Facebook's efforts to prevent traffickers from using the platform to recruit victims apparently don't go far enough.