The recruitment, transit, transfer, hosting, and receiving of individuals are examples of human trafficking. As one of the few worldwide commodities that can be bought and used continuously humans have become a worth billions of dollars business throughout the globe, contributing to the rise of human trafficking. Human trafficking may be classified into numerous categories, including sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, debt bondage, and forced labor. Sex, harvested organs, labor, fraud, abduction, coercion, and use of force are all common elements of human trafficking. Human trafficking happens both locally and internationally, with approximately fifty million victims worldwide due to this practice. In the United States, human trafficking has an impact on every state. Young individuals are also more prone to become victims of human trafficking since they are more naive and gullible. According to the findings of this study, there is a need for improved awareness and education about the risks and hazards associated with social media usage, particularly among younger users of social media. Increased precautions and knowledge of social media usage are crucial in lowering the risk of individuals becoming victims of human trafficking among those who use social media.
Keywords: Social media, human trafficking, victims.
There is a multi-billion-dollar global trade in modern slavery or human trafficking. Approximately forty-five million human trafficking victims worldwide and several trafficking instances were reported in the United States in 2019 alone. People of various sexes, ethnicities, ages, and nations are involved in the sector, and it is believed to have produced billions of dollars worldwide . Trafficking of human beings is the world’s third most lucrative criminal enterprise, behind only the sale of illicit weapons and narcotics. Those who engage in human trafficking earn “more money than several business entities. Because human trafficking offers a unique product, it has enormous financial ramifications. Living beings can be reused, unlike medicine, which cannot be resold after being used. It is very profitable to trade in human beings since they are a rare commodity that can be sold repeatedly. A sex trafficking victim, for instance, maybe resold up to fifty times in a day. Since human beings may be sold and exploited severally, traffickers see them as a global commodity worth investing in.
Social media has made it easier for human traffickers to prey on unsuspecting victims since people aren’t aware. According to a new survey, most young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine use social media (Anderson & Jiang, 69). In addition, 95% of teens have a smartphone in their hands, and forty-five percent of teenagers say they are online almost constantly (Anderson & Jiang, 77). Traffickers can find and entice victims who were previously unreachable because of social media’s near-ubiquity. Polaris conducted a study of human trafficking survivors and found that twenty-six percent of those polled had their social media accounts manipulated by their traffickers and that seventy-five percent of those polled had used the Internet during the trafficking. To lure victims into the sex slavery trade, human traffickers utilize social media to pose as love interests, advertise fake modeling opportunities and offer help to those in need.
Background and Significance
Most human traffickers utilize the internet and Social media to market and perform their services since mobile devices are widely available and used by virtually all traffickers (Konrad et al., 6). Even though trafficking in human beings has existed for a long time, the use of internet presents a newer opportunity for offenders to deal in such condut while their identity remains unknown (Kunze 21). However, very little study has been done to examine social media’s role in recruiting human trafficking victims and perpetrators via social media and the Internet. Solely one earlier study examined the use of internet in human trafficking (Kunz et al., 18).
Many states in the United States have witnessed relatively limited progress in the battle against human trafficking despite increasing attention to the issue. The true number of victims of trafficking and the financial consequences of human trafficking remain unclear. According to human trafficking expert Mark Small, data collection on the frequency of the crime is only getting started since many states have only recently implemented laws forbidding the trafficking of humans (Kieve, para. 7). Human trafficking remains an incredibly profitable business in most jurisdictions because of a lack of public knowledge about the issue.
Research on social media’s role in the grooming and recruitment of human traffic is needed since almost all kids have access to social media applications, and many are online almost constantly. Using the grounded theory, this study seeks to analyze social media’s role in human trafficking.
Eleuterietal (2017) opines that social networking has surpassed all other forms of communication as the primary means adolescents engage with one another nowadays. In a similar vein, the author claims that it is via social media that teens and adolescents can express themselves while also exploring their own identities and the identities of others. They have been able to find themselves in respect of their sexuality as they have gone through defining themselves. Although it is a wonderful platform where adolescents may find themselves, it can also be a detrimental platform. For instance, teenagers may be exposed to unsafe sexual activity like cyberbullying, revenge pornography and sexting.
Moser(2021) argued that human trafficking is a rising business carried out by force, misleading or fraudulent persuasion and has become a contemporary kind of slavery. Human trafficking on an internet platform, particularly for sexual exploitation, affects many individuals who are seeking to learn more about themselves and end up slipping into a trap as a result of their online exploration. In certain instances, those participating in online human trafficking fall victims, although they knowingly participate in the practice. Fraser’s opinion is that the repercussions of human trafficking are negative. Additionally, the author asserts that human trafficking has become more available and less costly in recent years.
Movsisyan (2018) observed that the digital age had had a significant role in increasing occurrences of human trafficking in recent years. This implies that the online world has a higher influence on human trafficking than previously thought. The author suggests that there are other aspects of human trafficking that must be considered. Human trafficking, on the other hand, is now prohibited under more stringent norms and regulations in the United States. The Communications Decency Act (CDA), commonly known as Title V of the Telecommunications Act, was adopted by the United States Congress in 1996 to govern obscenity and indecency on the Internet. The publication was developed in response to European Union (EU) directives on combating trafficking in human beings. The author has discussed the many websites engaged in trafficking human beings, EULawson Human Trafficking and the Internet, and the Legal Measures taken by the European Union’s Member States.
According to Sahuetal. (2020), although there are laws in place to combat human trafficking, individuals are scared to open up and report occurrences of human trafficking. Because of the stigmatizations that they have experienced, victims of human trafficking are scared to come forward and disclose their experiences. As a result, keeping track of these incidents of human trafficking has been a problem in recent years. When people don’t come forward and report situations of human trafficking, it makes it more difficult for law enforcement to deal with them.
This examination of the research will aid in the discovery of the interplay between trafficking in human and the use of social media.
The qualitative character of the research paradigm for this research is supported by responses from people in different categories, one consisting of respondents between the age of eighteen to twenty-four and another consisting of participants older than twenty-four but who are frequent users of social media platforms.
The grounded theory was employed following paucity of earlier research and the general lack of information about social media’s role the role in human trafficking.
Data Collection and Analysis
The information was gathered using written, private questionnaires presented by the investigator. The surveys were administered on Google Docs, which enabled the researcher to keep the identities of the survey respondent’s secret. The respondents’ replies were analyzed and evaluated using a grounded theory technique, in which recurrent responses were classified by open coding and then analyzed.
Since it can be inferred that the older participants may be more cautious about sharing personal information and befriending random people on social media because many of them are parents and are married, it is expected that youthful users would be more susceptible to trafficking.
It is possible to find human trafficking in practically any nation around the globe since it is the fastest expanding criminal sector in the world. Its presence and expansion and the increased usage of social media offer an ideal environment for people traffickers to operate in and profit from. Social media assists traffickers in concealing their illicit actions while maintaining their anonymity to a considerable extent. Consequently, it is critical to raise public consciousness of the dangers of meeting and talking to strangers via the internet. Increased awareness and the implementation of preventative measures are the only ways to reduce human trafficking significantly.
Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-mediatechnology-2018/
Fraser, C. (2016). An analysis of the emerging role of social media in human trafficking. International Journal of Development Issues, 15(2), 98–112
Kieve, M. (2015). Clemson study reveals potential prevalence of S.C. human trafficking. The Newsstand. Retrieved from http://newsstand.clemson.edu/mediarelations/clemson-studyreveals-potential-prevalence-of-s-c-human-trafficking/
Konrad, R. A., Trapp, A. C., Palmbach, T., & Blom, J. S. (2016). Overcoming human trafficking via operations research and analytics: Opportunities for methods, models, and applications. European Journal of Operational Research, 259(2), 733-745. doi:10.1016/j.ejor.2016.10.049
Kunz, R., Baughman, M., Yarnell, R., & Williamson, C. (2018). Social media & sex trafficking process from connection and recruitment, to sales. The University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute. Retrieved from http://www.utoledo.edu/hhs/htsji/pdfs/smr.pdf
Kunze, E. I. (2010). Sex trafficking via the Internet: How international agreements address the problem and fail to go far enough. The Journal of High Technology Law, 10(2), 241-289. Retrieved from https://www.peacepalacelibrary.nl/ebooks/files/382697081.pdf
Moser, M. M. (2021). Human Trafficking and Online Platform Liability. University of Toledo Law Review, 53(1), 159–178.
Movsisyan, S. (2019). Human Trafficking in a Digital Age: Who Should Be Held Accountable? Michigan State International Law Review, 27(3), 539–592.
Sahu, N., Roy, J., Golamari, R., Vunnam, R., & Jain, R. (2020). Would you Know How to Identify a Victim of Human Trafficking on your Service? South Dakota Medicine : The Journal of the South Dakota State Medical Association, 73(11), 540–541