UN Blames Facebook, WhatsApp For Enabling Human Trafficking; Charities Call BS

The UN has resorted to blaming big tech for failing to crack down on human traffickers who use their platforms to lure migrants "to their deaths" with false promises of safe passage into Europe, according to the Independent

Companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp are “enabling criminal activity” by traffickers who entrap victims who are unaware of the dangers they face, according to the UN’s migration agency.

The warning comes amid a surge in migrants attempting to reach the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats, with almost 100 people intercepted by both British and French authorities while attempting to reach the UK from France since Christmas Day. -Independent

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has declared the migrant crossings a "major incident," cutting short his family holiday to meet with his French counterpart and officials from Britain's Border Force, as well as the National Crime Agency, in order to take "personal control" of the situation, according to immigration minister Caroline Nokes. 

There have been over 17,700 deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea in just under five years. And that's apparently been enabled by Facebook and other tech firms which provide the ability to communicate. 

Leonard Doyle, spokesperson for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said migrants were being “lured to Calais” over the internet as smugglers operate via social networks “without any real oversight” from the companies controlling them.  

He said that while tech firms had taken measures to curb other exploitative activities such as child pornography, efforts to prevent people-smuggling has been “microscopic” compared with the damage it causes. -Independent

Charities call BS

Charities operating on the ground in Northern France disagree with the notion that social media firms have enabled human trafficking, and instead blame "the persecution faced by migrants in their home countries." Also enabling criminal human traffickers, according to the Independent are European governments which have failed to inform refugees of their rights to asylum - and how to do so. 

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, disputed the focus on social media, saying: “It’s deeply upsetting to see people taking the risk of crossing the Channel. We never expected to see them resort to something so desperate. 

“But this isn’t happening because of social media; it’s happening because they are being persecuted and killed and tortured in the places that they’re coming from.

Josh Hallam, field manager for Calais-based charity Help Refugees, said smugglers were able to take control of the information flow because government bodies were not providing it. 

“The reason so many people are risking their lives is because of the lack of state-funded information – knowledge of their asylum rights and so on – so they cannot make informed decisions,” he said.

“People are not coming because they think it will be an ‘opportunity’. People are fleeing army conscription in Eritrea, war in Syria and Afghanistan, all of the political issue in Ethiopia. -Independent

According to Doyle, however - "People like to point fingers over the migration crisis, but a big part of it must be that the guy or the girl in the village with nothing but a cracked smartphone can actually meet a smuggler in a heartbeat. This person will often have no prior knowledge, no sense that this is a trap, no sense that this is going to end up in their prostitution, their slavery, their murder, their drowning. But the tech companies that have done so much to bring technology to its current place are not investing in civic communication to help counter-balance the nonsense people get from social media. If someone does a search right now anywhere in the world for child pornography, up immediately will come a flag saying this is illegal, don’t go any further, you’re committing an illegal act. But they won’t do that for migration. It’s our technology companies that are luring them to their deaths, and luring them to Calais. It’s not the companies that are doing it, but they’re enabling this criminal activity to happen, almost without any real oversight."

According to Europol's Migrant Smuggling Center, 90% of migrants arriving in the EU were brought there by human traffickers belonging to a criminal organization - while the IOM pegs human trafficking as the third largest business for international criminals.

While the IOM says they have been in discussions with social media providers about the smuggling of people, Doyle has his doubts. 

"They claim they’re doing something, but they’re not. Why? Because they depend on shareholder value, so anything that interferes with that is affecting the stock price, which is already in trouble," said Doyle. "Facebook has people working on this but it’s nothing compared with the impact. The amount of attention this gets compared with the damage it does is microscopic."

Describing the process smugglers use to gain clients online, Mr Doyle said the first step were usually to “herd people like sheep” to a carefully protected WhatsApp group that tells them “when to move, what to do, what to say and how to deal with the authorities”.

Maybe it's a combination of both?