Move over Craigslist — there’s a new electronic pimp in town: Facebook. Police in Indonesia have arrested two men for running a prostitution service through the popular social network site. The twist? Like Facebook’s users, most of the girls who were being sold in prostitution were teens.
In this case, Facebook acted as the advertising and communications mechanism. All the girls, who were between 15 and 16 years old, already have pimps who were controlling them and selling them in prostitution. But the would-be criminal entrepreneurs who the Indonesian police nabbed saw a way they could get a cut of those profits without actually having to pimp girls themselves. Once they made arrangements with the pimps, the men posted around 25 pictures of the girls on their Facebook account to attract potential customers. When buyers saw a girl they wanted, they sent a message through Facebook, which was then forwarded to the girl’s pimp. The pimp arranged a meeting, and everyone made money except the teen girl. On average, each of these girls was selling for about $85 an encounter. This system had been running through Facebook for about two months.
It’s not surprising that the men in this case had a brainstorm to use Facebook to set up a teen prostitution ring. So many teens have so many photos on the site, a few more would hardly be noticed by authorities. And men looking to have sex with minors have already identified the site as a place to meet kids, either to lure away from home or outright buy. Thankfully, though, the Indonesian police managed to put the pieces of this puzzle together and track down the traffickers. No mention has been made, however, of whether there will be any attempt to find and assist the teen girls, or arrest their pimps or johns.
The anti-trafficking community has paid a lot of attention to the adult services section of Craigslist, and rightfully so, as it remains a huge place to advertise children and trafficking victims for sex. However, I predict that the number of trafficking rings coordinated and advertised on Facebook is going to increase, especially if Craigslist ever actually cracks down on such ads. It’s a free service that has a growing client base. So it’s only a matter of time before the traffickers begin to spot that.
Photo credit: Guilado