Social Media New Arsenal of Traffickers to Harvest Teens

Let's talk about a different use of Social Media: When Nicole was aged 17 years and her mother went to jail, she met a man on Facebook who offered to take care of her.Social Media stop human trafficking Social Media

The help he provided to Nicole began with the provision of work. So in her 20s, she found herself "serving" male impulses in Texas in the United States. When he was seriously injured in a rape, he finally managed to escape the circuit.

Nicole's experience is not unique.

Traffickers around the world are increasingly using social media to communicate with vulnerable adolescents and to promote them to the sex work market.

Criminals adopt popular social media platforms, creating new challenges for law enforcement agencies.

The search for victims on the road has been overtaken since traffickers can now send thousands of messages via Instagram, Facebook, Kik, Twitter, WhatsApp and Snapchat to some of the most up-to-date tools in their arsenal.

"If only one of them responds, traffickers can make thousands of dollars from a teenager very quickly," said Andrea Powell, director and founder of FAIR Girls, a U.S.-based NGO that helps girls trafficked into all over the world, including Nicole.

Powell, who accompanied Nicole to the Trust Women conference on trafficking and women's rights this week by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said a growing trend in the United States is the use of WhatsApp or Snapchat applications where messages disappear the passing of time.

"In some cases, there should be really stupid traffickers who leave mountains of traces in emails," Powell said.

"But most of the time they use other applications with different sites. So law enforcement needs to learn how to use them… This is a completely different game. ”

Europol, the European Union police service, said that social media and other online technologies, in addition to stopping the victims' fishing on the streets, allow traders to control victims using remote surveillance.

But that does not mean that traders do not leave traces that can help the police to locate them, Europol added.

The British National Crime Agency, on the other hand, said the use of social media by traffickers is an emerging trend, but the organization does not have data of how widespread it is.

Globally, about 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, an industry that brings 150 $ 2 billion, according to the United Nations International Labor Organization. It is estimated that 4,5 millions of people are forced to have sex.

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