Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Benyamin Cooke | Social media can facilitate human trafficking

Published:Tuesday | April 16, 2019 | 12:18 AMBenyamin Cooke/Contributor

The advent of the Internet has opened the world to endless possibilities and connectivity. However, unscrupulous persons have been using social media to facilitate human trafficking. Social media has become a daily part of our lives and posting, liking, commenting, and sharing social media posts has the potential to turn users into targets for human traffickers and smugglers. Social media, while designed to connect people, also makes it easier for predators to prey on the most vulnerable.

Sustainable Development Goals – Target 8.7 – calls for nations to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking ... . ” This sustainable development goal is in line with the Child Care and Protection Act, which Jamaica has enacted. While this is a step in the right direction, we must continue to educate our population and protect our citizens against the imminent threat of human trafficking. It is through this initiative that we will protect ourselves from this modern-day slavery.

Traffickers increasingly use social media platforms to recruit and lure victims. The internet and social media allow traffickers to connect to vulnerable youths. Traffickers target unassuming victims based on their social media posts, especially those that involve vulnerabilities and insecurities. Social media posts that draw the attention of a trafficker include, but are not limited to, expressions of loneliness, disappointment, stress, and resentment. Traffickers then seek to build relationships and groom the user to trust them as they appear to be charming, kind, and understanding. Persons are later persuaded to meet in person, only to meet their demise. Traffickers look for younger persons who are naive and most in need. Your post about your emotions and how you are feeling may help to facilitate your trafficking.

JOB ADVERTISEMENTS

The cry of many Jamaicans today is the lack of job opportunities. Many of our graduates spend time actively job hunting and will grab at any opportunity that seems legitimate. However, Internet users must be wary of fake online job advertisements making the rounds. Traffickers are putting out advertisements offering employment opportunities, with the intention of deceiving desperate jobseekers as the offers serve as an avenue for human traffickers to lure their victims.

Given this dilemma, it is recommended that persons research the employer in detail to ensure that the company is legitimate, utilise reputable and well-known recruitment companies where necessary, and be mindful not to share personal details such as your date of birth or bank details in applications or CVs.

According to the Global Slavery Index, Jamaica is ranked 117 out of 167. To purposely tackle the heinous act of human trafficking will take the concerted efforts of government agencies, non-governmental agencies, law enforcement, and the public. We must invest in programmes that include, but are not limited to, training geared at heightening awareness of human trafficking; identifying situations related to human trafficking, and supporting victims of human trafficking.

It is important for us to understand that human trafficking affects not only the victim, but also families, communities, and our lovely island. In Jamaica, men, women, and children are being trafficked. No group or person is excluded or immune. Those mostly targeted are the poor.

We must take steps to increase public awareness and consciousness of the very role that social media may play in human trafficking.

Benyamin Cooke is a youth advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.