Friday, February 11, 2011

A $50 Billion Company - The Perfect Place for Human Trafficking

This is the first in a series of reports related to Raymond Bechard's three-month investigation of Facebook.

There is a new place for human trafficking. And you probably go there several times a day.

It starts with a photograph. The young girl, perhaps six or seven years old, is not smiling in the picture. With her head turned slightly to the right, she looks coyly at the lens. Her hair is coiffedin a highly stylized arrangement with green and yellow ribbons. Along with other makeup, she is wearing lipstick, eyeliner and shadow. She is standing outside, a blue sky and unidentified foothills behind her.

She is holding an inflatable Daffy Duck. She is completely naked.

Most of the child's body is exposed in a sexual manner - making this photograph a violation of Federal Human Trafficking laws. Anyone involved or possessing the photograph could be prosecuted. The photographer, the men posting it, and the men downloading it and keeping it on their computer are all guilty according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which states that trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms including child pornography.

Of course, this is not the only photograph. It is part of a collection that is growing online by the hour. Nor is it hidden away on an obscure, offshore website. It is on Facebook. Along with other photos of naked, costumed, and posed children, the sexually explicit images are simply a collection called "Model Kids" on the profile of “Marcos Teia.” “Marcos” is clearly an online “avatar,” a falsified Facebook profile which effectively hides the true identity of the person behind the page.

After a three-month investigation in which I created my own Facebook avatar in order to infiltrate the world of pedophiles and child-abusers using Facebook, I uncovered an enormous, thriving online community of human trafficking, prostitution, child pornography, and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

“Marcos Teia's”profile, which uses Spidermanas a profile photo and has a Brazilian email address, has over 200 friends - at least, this week he does. That's because Marcos disappears every so often. One day he is on Facebook with hundreds of friends - whose profiles also exhibit sexually explicit photographs of children and adults on the social networking site - and the next day he is gone. A few days later he's back, eager to confirm friend requests from anyone.

Most of the reported 500 million users of Facebook probably think it is generally safe from such content and well patrolled. With some privacy concerns, the vast majority of Facebook users, from private citizens, to major corporations, NGO's, politicians, and even the President of the United States, have no idea that it is home to a massive collection of unreported pornography of all kinds.

While we have reported “Marcos” several times - which may explain why he vanishes so often - he always returns with the same name, profile photo, birthday, email address and, worst of all, sexually explicit photographs of children in his "Model Kids" collection. The obvious question is to Facebook: If this one profile continues this activity, why not remove it permanently? And if the abuse is ongoing, why not report it to the FBI?

Recently, Facebook "raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies, the Russian investment firm, in a deal that values the social networking site at $50 billion" according to The New York Times. This gives the company a value greater than most car companies, defense contractors, and other online businesses like Ebay and Amazon. Perhaps some of the money could be used to develop software that would automatically eradicatesexually explicit photos and profiles. I have requested information from Facebook concerning their procedures for safety and reporting violations to law enforcement. So far, no reply.