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More than half of online recruitments in active sex trafficking cases last year were on Facebook, report finds

The majority of online recruitment into active sex trafficking cases in the United States last year took place on Facebook, according to the Human Trafficking Institute’s 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report.

“The Internet has become the dominant tool that traffickers use to recruit victims, and they often recruit them from a number of very common social networking sites,” Victor Boutros, CEO of the Human Trafficking Institute, told CBSN on Wednesday. “Facebook is widely used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases. “

Active cases include those in which defendants were indicted in 2020, as well as those in which defendants were indicted in previous years and charges were still pending last year or the case was under appeal.

Data from the last two decades included in the Trafficking in Persons Report showed that 30% of all victims identified in the sex trafficking since 2000 have been recruited online.

In 2020 in the United States, 59% of online recruitment of identified victims in active cases took place on Facebook alone. The report also indicates that 65% of child victims of sex trafficking identified and recruited on social networks were recruited through Facebook.

The tech giant responded to the report’s findings in a statement to CBS News: “Child sex trafficking and exploitation is heinous and we don’t allow it on Facebook. We have policies and technologies to prevent these types of abuse and remove any content that violates our rules. “

“We are also working with security groups, anti-trafficking organizations and other tech companies to address this issue and we are reporting all apparent cases of child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.” , indicates the press release.

Instagram and Snapchat were the most frequently cited platforms after Facebook for recruiting child victims in 2020. For adult victims, the second most cited were WeChat and Instagram.

The annual report uses data from every active federal criminal and civil human trafficking case over the past year, but 2020 presented an expanded scope.

“This report actually examines trends over the past 20 years in the federal government,” Boutros said. “We have heard about the victims, the vast majority are women and children. So 50% of the victims are children, and a large majority are women. So 44% are women and 50% girls.”

While the internet has been the most common place of recruitment since 2013, with 41% of active cases in 2020, the streets, shops and sects have also been cited by the group as targets of human traffickers.

The researchers note that the trends also reflect the DOJ’s methods of tracking down cases.

“These data do not reflect the prevalence of online solicitation in sex trafficking programs beyond those pursued by the federal government. Certainly the Internet is involved in many sex trafficking situations, but the high number of federal prosecutions involving Internet solicitation is just as, if not more thoughtful, of the strategies used by law enforcement to investigate these crimes, ”the report said.

The majority of victims in active sex trafficking cases in 2020 were targeted with a fraudulent job offer, the report notes, followed by a fake romance. The data is based on the 602 victims identified in active sex trafficking cases for which the details of their recruitment were known.

“Traffickers often prey on the existing vulnerabilities of victims,” ​​Boutros said. “Often we imagine that the traffickers are these large groups or networks of groups, exploiting a large number of victims. But in reality, most traffickers do not operate as an organized crime business. It is mainly individual traffickers that operate. individually and a small handful of victims at the same time. “


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