I had plans for an entirely different column regarding wedding anniversaries and reconciliation this week, but my impatience with Facebook has grown to a headachy, finger hovering over the delete button level.
A sappy column will have to wait.
I’ve shared a little of the deficiency that is Facebook in a previous column, but the latest headache, if you will, is the passing of bad information, not a new issue by any means. It is almost a guarantee like death, taxes, and food stains on a white shirt that social media posts will include wrong info. Sometimes dumb, too often misinformed just enough to be dangerous.
The culprit, in this latest case, concerns several false human trafficking warnings I’ve noticed in my Facebook feed over the last few months. Those include but are not limited to zip-tied wiper blades and money tucked into car door handles.
As a former program director with the Piqua YWCA, I spent a lot of time focused on human trafficking. Attendance at the Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus was a particular highlight. I sat in on various conferences, including listening to law enforcement share their experiences with human trafficking and hearing stories directly from survivors.
However, I did not realize how pervasive the myths until we became a point of contact for local authorities when misinformation went around the community on a potential human trafficker.
While vigilance to one’s surroundings is admirable and adamant, the disinformation shared on social media concerning human trafficking cannot be dismissed. After telling several individuals their information was wrong, and openly so in comments, I finally made one singular post to stop it with the inclusion of an op-ed LA Times article on why sharing these posts is so bad.
Now here is my shortened version.
The problem starts with the misconception that human trafficking is a stranger lurking in a dark corner, ready to pounce. Human trafficking or “modern-day slavery” as per the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit another person through commercialized sex or involuntary labor.”
- Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.
- Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slaver
The keyword is exploitation with human trafficking generally perpetrated on the most vulnerable in society, runaway and homeless youth, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and war or those socially discriminated against, such as the LGBTQ community. The latter the statehouse conference grossly left out of conversations much to my dismay, I must add.
Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry around the globe, so yes, it happens everywhere, but not by hijacking your windshield wipers or by looking conspicuous at the mall or the grocery store.
The posts shared online seem to take a life of their own. What first starts as simple money tucked into car handles includes versions of the bill as being tainted by drugs. So the victim would “supposedly and purportedly” pass out upon touching it.
Windshield wiper blades not only have zip ties, but coins tucked between blades, and even socks.
While people are well-meaning, it is bad information to be sharing, and it hurts the actual victims and survivors of human trafficking. It interferes with police investigations. The trick, as with anything involving social media, is to empower yourself. A simple online search will quickly provide results on these myth-laden stories or urban legends if you will. It takes only a few minutes, a little homework, to check on whether posts are legit.
If you want to help, learn more about the signs of human trafficking, I’ve included a few great resources that I utilized for this column below.