Human Trafficking Thrived on Facebook in 2020, Report Finds

Human Trafficking Thrived on Facebook in 2020, Report Finds

( – Despite a global pandemic and worldwide border closures, human trafficking continued at a disturbing pace in 2020. The Virginia-based Human Trafficking Institute (HTI) has worked the last few years to “decimate modern slavery at its source” by cooperating with law enforcement officials and prosecutors to shut down trafficking operations.

The HTI works directly with criminal justice systems, including the US Department of Justice, to help free victims and hold the individuals and groups responsible for trafficking accountable.

The group takes a four-phase approach to assist law enforcement officials and prosecutors that includes:

  1. Setting up Specialized Human Trafficking Units to help fast track human trafficking cases through the courts;
  2. Operating an academy to provide training to those units help them identify cases, use “trauma-informed” interview techniques, and create effective trial strategies;
  3. Embedding former prosecutors and investigators within the specialized units to help them rescue victims and put traffickers behind bars; and
  4. Providing the specialized units and legislators with “evidence-based resources” to help them succeed and keep them updated on the latest best practices and multi-disciplinary scholarship sources.

The HTI publishes an annual Federal Human Trafficking Report, and the 2020 report provided some alarming data and statistics regarding the role of Facebook in human trafficking operations.

Facebook’s Human Trafficking Problem in 2020

According to the latest Federal Human Trafficking Report, the internet has become the most common place for human traffickers to find victims. Traffickers also recruit victims on the streets, at businesses, parties, and at other locations. But about 59% of recruitment of “active sex trafficking cases” occurred on Facebook in 2020. HTI CEO Victor Boutros told CBS News that traffickers “overwhelmingly” use Facebook to “recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.”

The report also noted that although traffickers recruit some adults through Facebook, children are far more likely to be recruited using the platform. According to the Human Trafficking Report, about 65% of child victims were recruited on Facebook in 2020, compared to 36% of adult victims.

Facebook Responds to the 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report

Facebook responded to the HTI report’s findings in a statement provided to CBS News. Facebook affirmatively stated that “trafficking” and the “exploitation” of children are “abhorrent” and aren’t allowed on Facebook’s platform. Facebook also claimed it had adequate “policies and technology” to detect and prevent “these types of abuses.”

The Big Tech giant concluded its statement by noting that it works closely with “anti-trafficking organizations” and other tech companies to address human trafficking. It reports any relevant cases involving children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Yet, Facebook’s platform is still a hot spot for a large majority of human trafficking recruitment efforts. Maybe it’s time for Facebook to refocus attention on how it keeps its users safe, as its current censorship methods seem to be ineffective.

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