Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fighting Facebook and Human Trafficking

While researching a new book on human trafficking in America, I inadvertently came across a Facebook profile page which I will never be able to forget. It started with just one terrible photograph of a child, right there for anyone to see. It only took a moment to see that image, one horrible moment that changed my life.But first, some background on the story.

There are so many dangerous myths surrounding human trafficking in the United States. To protect our young people I believe it is essential to tell the truth about this issue. And to do that, we have to drop all our agendas and preconceived notions. We must cast aside what we want to believe; what is easy to believe. Myths must be replaced by the truth. To understand and accept the humanity of the victims this crime leaves behind, I felt it was time explore the entire, often ugly, story of trafficking. And that story takes place in every community in America.

But be warned, the closer we look at human trafficking, the uglier it gets. You simply cannot get close to this topic without getting your hands dirty. For any thinking person, it is impossible to face the truth of it without having it change you. People want to believe it is something that can be solved easily and quickly. It can’t. The truth demonstrates that these specific crimes have existed in this country for two hundred years. Trafficking is an increasingly accepted part of our culture and it will take generations of healing and understanding to stop it.

The book I mentioned previously, The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America, tells the story of a landmark federal trial which took place in Hartford, Connecticut over the course of eight days in 2007. The trial of United States vs. Dennis Paris provides a rare and detailed account of how human trafficking is thriving because it has left the street corners and entered our homes. This one case contains every element of a crime so reliant on secrecy; shrouded behind a scintillating veil of growing legitimacy. Yet it is buried just below the surface of our culture’s mainstream perception.

By following this trial, we are taken to the core of how and where these events take place from the perspective of all those involved: the victims, the police, and the perpetrators. When we look at the Berlin Turnpike, a twelve mile stretch of concrete in the nation’s wealthiest state: Connecticut, we finally uncover what has been lurking in every American community for so long.

And a growing segment of this crime has infiltrated Facebook. Then last October, reported, “Facebook is failing to prevent child predators from posting suggestive and potentially illegal photographs of children on its website.” The reality is that right now, criminals are using Facebook as their dark playground. The young girl in the Facebook profile I witnessed was perhaps six or seven years old. She was not smiling. With her head was turned slightly to the right and she looked coyly at the lens. It was intentionally provocative. Her hair was done in a highly stylized arrangement with green and yellow ribbons. Along with other makeup, she was wearing lipstick, eyeliner and shadow. She was standing outside, a blue sky and unidentified foothills behind her. She was holding an inflatable Daffy Duck. And she was completely naked.

I quickly realized this was not at all the only photograph of its kind on Facebook. It is part of an enormous collection that is growing by the hour on the social networking site. Knowing these images are a violation of Federal Law, we reported the images and videos to the FBI. We explained to them that other explicit images and videos of children on Facebook are far, far worse.

I am not shocked that criminals use the internet to trade these photos with each other. But, these are not hidden away on some obscure, offshore website. This is on Facebook today.

In another recent case, a man contacted a false profile of a woman on Facebook to trade photos of children. His profile had approximately 200 explicit images of children of various ages. The FBI was able to track this man and arrested him last month. He is a husband, the father of three children and the pastor of a church in Kentucky.

Most of the reported 600 million users of Facebook probably think it is well patrolled and generally safe from such content. With some privacy concerns, the vast majority of Facebook users, from private citizens, to churches and ministries, 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 child and adult pornography.

So today, we ask this question: If Facebook has the human and technological resources to topple governments and shift human history, shouldn’t it be able to prevent sexually explicit images of child children - some only newborns - from being placed on their system?

Our goal is to motivate Facebook to focus its vast intellectual and financial resources and bring an end to these crimes taking place on their website. No matter what Facebook might be doing now to prevent this violence against children, it is clearly not enough. I have been trying to expose these crimes and Facebook’s apparent lack of effort in preventing them through this series of articles and on Facebook itself through a “Cause” called “Force Facebook To Block All Child Pornography” which now has over 2200 members. Except for a small, anonymous and devoted group of international “netizens” who patrol Facebook and report these crimes, very few people are taking action against these deadly attacks on our children; attacks glorified by pedophiles and now infiltrating every home in America.

Now there is hope through the initiation of a singular nationwide campaign which will expose these crimes occurring on Facebook - the online community that many American families visit every day – while at the same time place the responsibility for their prevention squarely on the website’s executives. The Stop Child Porn on Facebook campaign is a web-based initiative that gives all American families the ability to flood the offices of Facebook with traditional US Postal Service delivered mail, calling for an end to the invasion of their website by pedophiles.

We call on all who care about children to visit There, thanks to Cause Action, the organization that built the website, you and your friends can automatically send your mail to the CEO of Facebook, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Mark Zuckerberg, and other in Facebook leadership. The more people who participate, the more powerful our message will be. This campaign is meant to spark a white hot fire of public action and, more importantly, to convince Facebook that they must make the prevention of these crimes their number one priority.

To be clear, we will settle for nothing less than a real solution that keeps these abusive images and videos off Facebook in the first place. To do that, we must join forces to bring this story out in the open.

For more information, please refer to the following websites:
Stop Child Porn On Facebook
Force Facebook To Block All Child Pornography
The Berlin Turnpike Story