By Maisha Ahmed, Edited by Kavitha Mathivarnan
Social media allows our communities to connect more easily than ever before, making it both an incredible tool for sharing information and a dangerous tool for predators. It is not uncommon for social media to be used for human trafficking recruitment and to control trafficking victims. It is vital that we learn how to avoid getting victimized by human trafficking operations occurring through social media.
Being able to recognize the means of recruitment on social media is immensely helpful when trying to avoid trafficking. The two most common methods of trafficking used on social media are online relationships and deceptive job opportunities. Traffickers are able to conduct grooming through online communication by bonding with potential victims. They will often search for targets who post about being in vulnerable situations such as unstable homes, mental health issues, or substance abuse (How Do). When a target expresses their need for some sort of emotional support, a trafficker will step in and instigate a relationship. Deceptive job opportunities are something most of us have seen or received through direct messages on various platforms. Traffickers will pose as recruiters for various agencies by posting enticing advertisements for a fake company or by individually messaging targets about an opportunity (Human Trafficking). These modes of recruitment often fly under the radar, which is frightening for any active social media user. If you receive any messages or see any posts that look suspicious, it is critical to avoid interacting and block suspicious users.
Social media has also become a magnet for human trafficking operations in terms of sales. Online sex marketplaces are growing with social media, as platforms like Facebook and Instagram act as grounds for less obvious sales of sexual service (Human Trafficking). Many victims are exploited using their own social media accounts with subtle captions and comments including prices. Along with typical social media sites, dating apps, webcam sites, and advertisement sites are also breeding grounds for human trafficking operations (Kunz et al). Thankfully, the United States has enacted the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act to ensure that prosecutorial authority is placed against online marketplaces that knowingly partake in these sales (Human Trafficking). Nonetheless, we should all be cautious of how different sites are being used and how they might be potentially contributing to operations.
Social media’s role in human trafficking is disturbing, but through education and the spread of resources, we can greatly reduce the number of victims. To help combat the dangers of social media, it is important to encourage your friends and peers to get informed on the tactics used by traffickers online. Though social media appears glamorous, we as a society must recognize its dangers in order to combat human trafficking.
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Kunz, Ryan, et al. “Social Media & Sex Trafficking Process.” The University of Toledo, www.utoledo.edu/hhs/htsji/pdfs/smr.pdf.