Facebook and Sex Trafficking: Bittersweet

Yesterday, I joined my friends Liz and Slay (and many others!) in drawing attention to a Facebook community page for Kolkata’s infamous Sonagachi red-light district. The issue, at first, was that this page hosted sexually explicit images–many of minors. Liz reported the page and asked her friends to join her in reporting. And then something unexpected happened.

Every single person who reported the page received the following message:

My own response after reporting a Facebook community page featuring underage nudity and pornography.

My own response from “Viki”

Of course, clicking the link to look at Facebook’s community standards, one soon realizes that this Viki-bot failed basic logic because not only did the community page feature nudity and sexually graphic imagery, but many of those pictures were of minors and what’s more is that pimps were selling women on the page.

So of course, those who were aware of the page continued to rally and spread awareness to get the page pulled from Facebook. To see the scope of what went in to yesterday’s efforts, please go to Liz’s page to a post she co-wrote with Slay about everything. It’s really quite astonishing and disheartening to see how much work went into taking down a single sex trafficking page.

The thing is, that one page was one of hundreds of pages dedicated to Sonagachi.

To say that I have bittersweet emotions today is an understatement. On the one hand, I feel so grateful that a page promoting sex trafficking is gone. On the other hand, I know that it really is only a matter of time before more pages go up and the cycle continues. Seeing how many individuals and organizations rallied together around this was inspiring and encouraging. Seeing how long it took Facebook to actually respond made me want to despair. You see why it’s bittersweet.

Yesterday afternoon, my emotions were a mix of anger and discouragement. I couldn’t shake it on the ride home from work, even after venting to Mister. And then when I got home, a song popped into my head, and I haven’t been able to shake that either. You may be familiar with the lyrics.

There is a Redeemer,
Jesus, God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Holy one

Thank you, O my Father,
For giving us your Son
And leaving your Spirit
‘Til your work on Earth is done.

I cannot get this song out of my head, and honestly, I am thankful for the comfort. Am I dismissing the horrors of Sonagachi? No. No, there is still work to be done, and I intend to do my part. (God help me to never tire of doing good!) And the peace that I find from knowing that God is still at work in the world does not leave me comfortable enough to forget about the tragedy of children being trafficked and raped. No, I cannot forget. I will not forget. You shouldn’t either.

Through all of the various blog posts, tweets, comments, and links I was exposed to yesterday, I became aware of several organizations (formal and informal) that are currently doing their best to counter the kind of exploitation I saw on Facebook. I will go ahead and link to them below for your own benefit.

For more, see this wikipedia article with links to other organizations that are working to stop human trafficking. (Note: this is not a comprehensive list of everyone involved in this global effort, but it’s a great starting point to find a local organization you can partner with now.)

I intend to keep posting on this issue as it progresses. I’ll close with the following quote by theologian N.T. Wright:

If God is a good God, he must react extremely strongly against that which destroys, corrupts or defaces human life.

Remember that, and please join the efforts to stop human trafficking.

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10 thoughts on “Facebook and Sex Trafficking: Bittersweet

  1. Pingback: Facebook, You’re Doing it Wrong | Ellayne Shaw

  2. Thank you for your work on this, and for sharing these resources. I hope you can find some encouragement in what happened yesterday, even as we struggle with the greater implications of sex trafficking in Sonagachi and beyond.

    • I do find some encouragement for what did happen yesterday. If I didn’t allow myself to cheer over the small wins, it would be too hard to keep fighting. Every win, whether large or small, is a step in the right direction, yeah?

  3. I wanted to say thank you too. Its a damnable shame that it took so many people so much effort to get that page down. After it was finally down and before Liz and I wrote our follow up, I had reaction much like yours — disappointment and anger, and some sad confusion. If I hadn’t *happened* to know people at Jezebel, if both Liz and I didn’t *happen* to be writers, if we didn’t *happen* to know a lot of social media activists, nothing would have been done. And that’s just a real sad commentary on FB’s policies.

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  5. Thank you for you dedication to these causes that are trying to end sexual exploitation against our children and women.

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