Facebook used to kidnap, traffic Indonesian girls
Online child sexual abuse and exploitation are common in much of Asia. In the Philippines, kids are being forced to strip or perform sex acts on live webcams — often by their parents, who are using them as a source of income. Western men typically pay to use the sites.
‘‘In the Philippines, this is the tip of the iceberg. It’s not only Facebook and social media, but it’s also through text messages ... especially young, vulnerable people are being targeted,’’ said Leonarda Kling, regional representative for Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a nonprofit working on trafficking issues. ‘‘It’s all about promises. Better jobs or maybe even a nice telephone or whatever. Young people now, you see all the glamour and glitter around you and they want to have the latest BlackBerry, the latest fashion, and it’s also a way to get these things.’’
Facebook says its investigators regularly review content on the site and work with authorities, including Interpol, to combat illegal activity. It also has employees around the world tasked with cracking down on people who attempt to use the site for human trafficking.
‘‘We take human trafficking very seriously and, while this behavior is not common on Facebook, a number of measures are in place to counter this activity,’’ spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an email.
He declined to give any details on Facebook’s involvement in trafficking cases reported in Indonesia or elsewhere.
The Depok girl, wearing a mask to hide her face as she was interviewed, said she is still shocked that the man she knew for nearly a month turned on her.
‘‘He wanted to buy new clothes for me, and help with school payments. He was different ... that’s all,’’ she said. ‘‘I have a lot of contacts through Facebook, and I've also exchanged phone numbers. But everything has always gone fine. We were just friends.’’
She said that after being kidnapped, she was given sleeping pills and was ‘‘mostly unconscious’’ for her ordeal. She said she could not escape because a man and another girl stood guard over her.
The girl said the man did not have the money for a plane ticket to Batam, and also became aware that her parents and others were relentlessly searching for her. He ended up dumping her at a bus station, where she found help.
‘‘I am angry and cannot accept what he did to me. ... I was raped and beaten!’’ said the lanky girl with shoulder-length black hair. The AP generally does not publish the names of sexual abuse victims.
The girl’s case made headlines this month when she was expelled after she tried to return to school. Officials at the school reportedly claimed she had tarnished its image. She has since been reinstated, but she no longer wishes to attend due to the stigma she faces.
Education Minister Mohammad Nuh also came under fire after making remarks that not all girls who report such crimes are victims: ‘‘They do it for fun, and then the girl alleges that it’s rape,’’ he said. His response to the criticism was that it’s difficult to prove whether sexual assault allegations are ‘‘real rapes.’’
The publicity surrounding the story encouraged the parents of five other missing girls to come forward this month, saying their daughters also were victimized by people they met on Facebook. Two more girls were freed from their captors in October and are now seeking counseling.
A man who posed as a photographer on Facebook was recently arrested and accused of kidnapping and raping three teenage girls. Authorities say he lured them into meeting him with him by promising to make them models, and then locked them in a house. Police found dozens of photos of naked girls on his camera and laptop.
Another case involved a 15-year-old girl from Bogor. She was recently rescued by police after being kidnapped by someone she met on Facebook and held at a restaurant, waiting for someone to move her to another town where she would be forced into prostitution.
In some incidents, the victims themselves ended up recruiting other young girls after being promised money or luxuries such as mobile phones or new clothes.
Police are trying to get a step ahead of the criminals. Detective Lt. Ruth Yeni Qomariah from the Children and Women’s Protection unit in Surabaya said she posed as a teenager online and busted three men who used Facebook to kidnap and rape underage girls. She’s searching for a fourth suspect.
‘‘It has been getting worse as trafficking rings become more sophisticated and underage children are more easily targeted,’’ she said.
The man who abducted the Depok girl has not been found, and it’s unclear what happened to the five other girls held at the house where she was raped.Continued...