July 8, 2021
The majority of online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases in the U.S. 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 on a number of very common social networking websites,” Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros said on CBSN Wednesday. “Facebook overwhelmingly is used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.”
Active cases include those in which defendants were charged in 2020, as well as those in which defendants were charged in previous years and charges were still pending in trial last year or the case was on appeal.
Data from the last two decades included in the human trafficking report showed that 30% of all victims identified in federal sex trafficking cases since 2000 were recruited online.
In 2020 in the U.S., 59% of online recruitment of identified victims in active cases took place on Facebook alone. The report also states that 65% of identified child sex trafficking victims recruited on social media were recruited through Facebook.
The tech giant responded to the report’s findings in a statement to CBS News: “Sex trafficking and child exploitation are abhorrent and we don’t allow them on Facebook. We have policies and technology to prevent these types of abuses and take down any content that violates our rules.”
Read the full story by Elizabeth Elkind on CBS News.
October 13, 2020
It was announced on Tuesday that Facebook will ban QAnon and related conspiracy theories associated with many disinformation campaigns. The company has been struggling to control the spread of misinformation ahead of the 2020 election, and QAnon presence on the platform has upended much of that work in recent months.
QAnon is a popular conspiracy theory that began in the far corners of the internet back in 2017 after the Pizzagate conspiracy theory sparked ahead of the 2016 election. The conspiracy theory, which once existed only within the fringes of society, has increasingly centered itself into mainstream politics ahead of the 2020 election. The theory suggests that Hollywood and the Democratic Party is run by a group of elite pedophiles that torture children and harvest their adrenaline to use it in a drug that extends their youth and beauty. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Tom Hanks have fallen target to QAnon supporters, as well as political figures like Bill Clinton.
Facebook began cracking down on QAnon groups and related content earlier this summer, when the conspiracy theory began making its way into the mainstream by re-appropriating calls to end human trafficking on social media. On Instagram, hashtags related to human trafficking saw an uptick of QAnon related content, acting as a radicalization tool for curious activists by appealing to their moral code and gut reaction.
Memes that spread falsified statistics about human trafficking with no reference information spread like wildfire, leading millions of people to think that the problem is much worse than it might actually be. Attempts at fact checking this information are futile, especially since the nature of QAnon pushes a distrust in news media companies by alleging that they, too, are part of this cabal of pedophiles.
Facebook said on Tuesday that it would be expanding on its policies made earlier in 2020 to find and remove content associated with QAnon. “Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” said the company in a press release. “This is an update from the initial policy in August that removed Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with QAnon when they discussed potential violence while imposing a series of restrictions to limit the reach of other Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with the movement,” the press release went on to say.
To read the full story by Julia Sachs on Grit Daily: Click Here
December 16, 2019
HOUSTON — Tech has led to a lot of trouble lately: hate speech, financial scams, undermined elections. Yet tech companies have largely avoided legal consequences, thanks to a landmark 1996 law that protects them from lawsuits.
Now that federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, has a new threat: Annie McAdams, a personal-injury lawyer in Houston.
Ms. McAdams is waging a legal assault against Facebook and other tech companies, accusing them of facilitating the sex trafficking of minors. In a series of lawsuits in California, Georgia, Missouri and Texas, she is using a novel argument to challenge the 1996 law, and finding some early success. This year, a Texas judge has repeatedly denied Facebook’s motions to dismiss her lawsuits.
Section 230 states that internet companies are not liable for what their users post. Ms. McAdams argues that, in the case of pimps using Facebook and Instagram to lure children into prostitution, separate laws require Facebook to warn users of that risk and do more to prevent it.
“If you sell a lawn mower and the blade flies off and chops someone in the leg, you have the responsibility to fix it and warn people,” she said. “Nowhere else has an industry been afforded this luxury of protection from being held accountable for anything that they’ve caused.”
Ms. McAdams’s lawsuits are part of a broader, yearslong effort to use the courts to upend how the 23-year-old law governs the internet.
While Section 230 is increasingly debated in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, legislation is not expected to significantly weaken the law anytime soon. Instead, lawyers are pushing ahead with federal and state lawsuits to challenge its protection of internet companies. After years of court rulings that strengthened the law, cracks have recently begun to show.
In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that Section 230 didn’t protect a modeling website that two men used to lure women they drugged and sexually assaulted, because the site’s owners knew of the threat and failed to warn the women.
To read the full story by Jack Nicas on The New York Times: Click Here