Friday, February 11, 2011

Facebook – New Frontier of Human Interaction or Wild West of Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking, this time taking the form of child pornography, is alive and well on Facebook. While the practice of pedophiles using the incredibly popular and powerful social networking website to shares images and videos of children being sexually assaulted is commonplace, what’s new and surprising is the lack of attention their crimes receive.

Having reported the practice to the FBI, individual state law enforcement, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Facebook itself, a small but growing group of citizens is now taking it upon themselves to monitor and document the activities of those posting images of and links to children, some only toddlers, engaged in sex acts with adult males and females.

The captions to some of these photos – which are illegal to possess even as digital files - tell the story of the horrible and twisted pride these abusers exhibit when boasting about the images they post on Facebook. "Barbara my model!” says one profile under the photo of a nude child. “She began sex at only 4 years! Now she is 17, a real slut nymphomaniac!" Another says, "She is one of my best lilmodels! Now she is 10 yo, but she began to do sex since 2 ys!”

Of course, few of these offenders use their real names for the Facebook profiles they create. However, criminal justice authorities and Facebook have the ability to track them down. “Some people who had used the screen names ‘Stephanie Stewart,’ ‘Lisa King,’ ‘Jenna Foltz,’ ‘Amy Farmer,’ ‘Buffy Tanner,’ ‘Katy Ellis,’ ‘Katy Cat,’ and ‘Katy Kat’ were recently indicted for using Facebook groups to share child pornography,” writes the “Watching Facebook” blogger, an excellent and dedicated investigator into child pornography on Facebook. “Theindictment also refers to a ‘Jodie Green’ account. How many of these defendants are female? None. The American defendants are James Paul Byrd, David Large, Brian Slott, Daniel Slott, and Henry Wright. In fact, Brian and Daniel Slott are registered sex offenders in Wisconsin. "Jodie Green" was actually Ian Green, a British sex offender who has already been sentenced to prison for his role in the groups.

Through this case it is obvious that law enforcement can do something about child pornography on Facebook when it focuses its time and resources on the problem. This was also the case in New York where Gene Wasneechak was arrested for possessing child pornography following a police investigation into his Facebook postings. They began investigating Wasneechak after he began several Facebook relationships with underage girls who are especially vulnerable to these solicitations.

“It's not hard to guess how these people found the photos of adolescents and young women that they used in their profile photos,” writes the “Watching Facebook” blogger. “We've also seen these people solicit nude photos from girls they believe to be underage. If they got one, they would almost certainly trade it with other like-minded people. Child pornography is a largely a barter-based economy, and images that had not previously been circulated would be valuable currency.”

The currency here is children being used for sex. The market in which they trade is Facebook – a virtual community most of us visit every day. Yet, in the back alleys of this new village square crimes are being committed against children; nightmarish crimes most find hard to believe. Yet they continue to be perpetrated by a growing number of criminals who – except for a few isolated cases – go undisturbed in the practice of their giddy perversions and violence.

The objective here is to motivate Facebook to utilize its vast intellectual resource in bringing an end to these crimes taking place on their website. No matter what they might be doing now, it is clearly not enough. Through a mounting collection of videos and images, these crimes against children are growing every day.