Despite the massive amounts of squicky porn and endless photos of cats playing in Kleenex boxes, the Internet can be used for good, constructive purposes. That happened yesterday when a group of Metafilter users stopped two Russian girls from being lured into working under false pretenses and possibly even trafficked. And it was possible because average citizens knew how to spot the signs of human trafficking.
The Metafilter thread started when a user mentioned his concerns about two friends, both Russian, who came to the U.S. to work and were promised jobs. However, once they arrived in D.C., no jobs were to be had. A contact from the organization that brought them over told the girls to travel to New York City, where jobs as cocktail waitresses were awaiting them. That sent up a red flag not just for the questioner, but for dozens of other Metafilter users.
They sprang into action, more like a team of trained professionals than a group of strangers who happened to use the same Internet platform, finding phone numbers for the Russian consulate, opening a case with the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and even offering to pay for food and shelter for the girls in D.C., to keep them from traveling to New York. They suggested buying the girls cameras and phones to help keep them safe, they called law enforcement in New York to put them on guard, and someone even sent Ashton Kutcher a Tweet.
Members quickly discovered that the “waitressing” job in New York was at a strip club with sketchy history. Not only that, but the person who was encouraging them to go to New York wasn’t in any way affiliated with the company that brought them to the U.S. Luckily, a Metafilter user in New York was able to meet the girls in the train station and prevent them from making it to their new “jobs.” No one may know for sure if trafficking awaited them instead of a waitress job, but they were certainly being lied to by a whole lot of people.
This is one great example of average citizens can help prevent human trafficking by knowing what to look for and who to contact. Supposedly, one of the girls responded to her friend who originally catalyzed the Metafiler community into action, with the following text message: “D! Listen. I don’t know how thanks you. Lux lounge is a strip bar, if we will go there, i don’t know what would be… Thank you so much.! You saved our lifes.”
Yep, that just about says it all.
Photo credit: banalities