More than half of sex trafficking victims in the US were recruited on Facebook last year, report reveals

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According to a new report from the Human Trafficking Institute, the majority of online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases took place on Facebook last year.

“The Internet has become the dominant tool traffickers use to recruit victims, and they often recruit them on a number of common social networking sites,” Victor Boutros, CEO of the Human Trafficking Institute, told CBSN.

“Facebook is overwhelmingly used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.”

Data presented in the 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report shows that 30 percent of all victims identified in federal sex trafficking cases in the past two decades — since 2000 — were recruited online.

In 2020, in the United States, 59 percent of all online recruitment of identified victims into active cases took place on Facebook alone, according to the report, and 65 percent of identified child sex trafficking victims recruited on social media were recruited through Facebook.

According to a new report from the Human Trafficking Institute, the majority of online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases took place on Facebook last year.  Pictured: A man looks at a computer screen with a Facebook logo [stock photo]

According to a new report from the Human Trafficking Institute, the majority of online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases took place on Facebook last year. Pictured: A man looks at a computer screen with a Facebook logo [stock photo]

“Surprisingly, despite Facebook’s reputation as a less popular platform among teens, Facebook was a more common platform for recruiting child victims than adult victims in active sex trafficking cases in 2020,” the report said.

“In fact, 65 percent (68) of child victims recruited through social media were recruited through Facebook — compared to just 36 percent (10) of adults.”

Active cases included in the report include those in which defendants were charged in 2020, and those in which defendants were charged in previous years and the charges were still pending last year, or the cases were on appeal.

In a statement to CBS NewsFacebook said: “Sex trafficking and exploitation of children is abhorrent and we do not allow them on Facebook.

“We have policies and technology in place to prevent this kind of abuse and remove any content that violates our rules.”

“We are also working with security groups, anti-trafficking organizations and other technology companies to address this and we report all apparent cases of child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” it added.

In 2020, in the United States, 59 percent of all online recruitment of identified victims into active cases took place on Facebook alone, according to the report, and 65 percent of identified child sex trafficking victims recruited on social media were recruited through Facebook.  Pictured: Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg speaking in 2018

In 2020, in the United States, 59 percent of all online recruitment of identified victims into active cases took place on Facebook alone, according to the report, and 65 percent of identified child sex trafficking victims recruited on social media were recruited through Facebook. Pictured: Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg speaking in 2018

The institute's annual report uses data from all active federal criminal and civil human trafficking cases from the past year, but the 2020 report had a more comprehensive scope, 20 years after the government passed the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking Act in 2000. [stock photo]

The institute’s annual report uses data from all active federal criminal and civil human trafficking cases from the past year, but the 2020 report had a more comprehensive scope, 20 years after the government passed the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking Act in 2000. [stock photo]

After Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook Inc.) and Snapchat were the most cited platforms for recruiting child victims in 2020, the report states.

When it comes to adult victims, WeChat and Instagram followed Facebook.

The institute’s annual report uses data from all active federal criminal and civil human trafficking cases from the past year, but the 2020 report had a broader scope, 20 years after the government passed the Act to Protect Victims of Human Trafficking in 2000. .

“This report actually looks at trends in the federal government over the past twenty years,” Boutros told CBS.

‘We learned about victims, who are mainly women and children. So 50 percent of the victims are children and a large majority are women. So 44 percent are women and 50 percent are girls.’

While the internet has been the most common recruiting site for traffickers since 2013 — including 41 percent of active cases in 2020 — the report also notes that shops and cults are prime targets of the criminals.

“The Internet has become the dominant tool traffickers use to recruit victims, and they often recruit them on a number of common social networking sites,” Victor Boutros, CEO of the Human Trafficking Institute, told CBSN on Wednesday.

In the report, researchers also say the trends seen in the report reflect the DOJ’s methods of detecting human trafficking cases.

“These data do not reflect the prevalence of online recruitment in human trafficking programs beyond those that are federally prosecuted,” the report states.

“Certainly, the Internet has been implicated in many sex trafficking situations, but the high rate of federal prosecutions involving Internet solicitations reflects as much, if not more, the strategies law enforcement uses to investigate these crimes.”

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