In yet another scandal for Facebook, a seventeen-year-old child bride from South Sudan was just sold through Facebook to become a man’s ninth wife, and Facebook only took the post down two weeks after the auction had taken place. The girl was sold by her family to a man three times her age following a bidding war with “at least four other men” including “the state’s deputy governor” in exchange for “Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones.”
When Facebook finally responded two weeks after the auction had taken place, they claimed it had permanently suspended the account that made the auction post. “Any form of human trafficking — whether posts, pages, ads or groups is not allowed on Facebook. We removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted this to Facebook,” stated a Facebook spokesman, “We’re always improving the methods we use to identify content that breaks our policies, including doubling our safety and security team to more than 30,000 and investing in technology.” Plan International’s South Sudan Country Director George Otim declared, “This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief.”
This is not the first time Facebook has had problems with human trafficking on its platforms. In October, four Indonesians were arrested after they allegedly sold babies on Facebook-owned Instagram, on an account that gained over seven hundred followers. The Vice-Chairman of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, Rita Pranawati, claimed that some people attempt to buy babies when they want to adopt, but do not meet the adoption criteria and that children have also previously been bought for “underage sex work.”
Facebook’s policies clearly prohibit the sale of live animals, pets, livestock, and pelts on their platform, however, the website’s Marketplace has been used to trade drugs, weapons, sex, and humans before the social network eventually discovered such listings and shut them down. Both Facebook and Instagram have also been used by the black market for illegal animal trading, including endangered animals which are banned from sale internationally. Over 1,500 illegal animal listings were discovered on twelve Facebook groups in one month, including animals such as the Eurasian otter, the black spotted turtle, the helmeted hornbill, the Siamese crocodile, the Asiatic black bear, the palm civet, and the slow loris — the most common listing. “Facebook does not allow the sale or trade of endangered species or their parts, and we remove this material as soon as we are aware of it,” said a Facebook spokesman.