Why I Reported Facebook to the FBI

Why sell your wares on a street corner when you can actively cold call prospective buyers of sexual services on a site like Facebook?

I’ve reported crimes to the FBI before. This one was different. In all previous cases, I didn’t know who the suspect was. This time I did. That’s how I found myself sitting across from an FBI Special Agent at their New Haven, Connecticut offices. The crime I was reporting to him was child pornography. The perpetrator was Facebook.

First a little background on what brought me to the FBI’s interview room that day.

The widespread use of the Internet by human traffickers, pimps, and pedophiles has changed the entire landscape of commercial sexual exploitation throughout the world. “Technology has played a fundamental role in this change,” wrote Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology professor at Columbia University, “No self-respecting cosmopolitan man looking for an evening of companionship is going to lean out his car window and call out to a woman at a traffic light.” Quite simply, the web has become the new City Street Corner with all its former intrigue and ugliness. All manner of humanity roams there.

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While the Internet is mushrooming with sex-for-sale sites like Backpage, Fling, Adult Friend Finder, Eros, and The Erotic Review, something else has emerged, bringing an entirely new dynamic to human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Social networking websites like Facebook, Microsoft Live, Google+, and Twitter have completely moved the game to a different playing field. Enormously popular – and growing every day – these free sites offer very powerful tools for men who are buying sex, pimps who are selling it, and worse, pedophiles trading child pornography.

To begin with, in a brilliantly devious marketing ploy, pimps have used these sites in such a way that men no longer need to look for girls on the street corner or the Internet. Using social networking, the girls now come to them.

In the world of online prostitution and human trafficking, individual females are advertised extensively with personal pages of information, photos, and updates. Facebook is the perfect forum to begin or continue conversations with potential johns. This has added a new dimension for pimps and other human traffickers to aggressively market females working in prostitution: Tugging. Now they can go looking for men – pull them in – instead of waiting for men to contact them. “Even before the crackdown on (Craigslist’s) adult-services section,” observed professor Venkatesh, “sex workers were turning to Facebook.” He further estimated “that by the end of 2011, Facebook will be the leading on-line recruitment space.”

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Some men, curious and perhaps willing to pay someone for sex, but unwilling to actively look for listings online, are open to having an attractive female “friend” them on Facebook and begin an innocent conversation. With millions of men sharing their profile on Facebook, it is extremely easy for those working in the sex industry to scour through profiles, seeking men in their geographic area who look like they have money to spend. This provides a new level of “sex marketing” efficiency since Facebook allows almost anyone to see enough information about an individual to determine whether or not they will make a profitable john.

Once the man receives the “friend” request, and not knowing from whom the request came, he may be curious enough to look at the sender’s profile. With no limitations on who sees her Facebook page, he will find a wealth of information to beguile him. The female’s profile begins with an exhibit of risqué photos, but still within the soft guidelines of the website so as not to raise any warning flags with its administrators. Her “Wall” will have references to her love of parties, men, and sex. Her updates will be perky, friendly, positive, and alluring.

At this point, the man has two options: “Confirm” or “Ignore” the “friend” request from his sexy new contact. If he takes the bait and presses “Confirm” she will be able to see his entire profile. He will receive constant updates from her and invitations to “Instant Message” her on Facebook, all in an effort to draw him in. After a short time, his new female Facebook friend will invite him to follow her on Twitter as well. Then, she begins inviting him, and other men, to dance where she is dancing, “party” wherever she is that particular night, or stay wherever she is staying “for the next few days.”

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Women being sold are not only waiting on street corners. They are not only sitting by the phone waiting for men to call from their ads online. They are not waiting for e-mails and texts to come in. Now they are cold calling. Through legitimate and accepted websites like Facebook, they are knocking on the doors of men across America, peering into the windows of their virtual homes, and asking for an invitation to come inside.

Far more blatant is the use of Facebook by pedophiles to connect with each other around the world in order to trade sexually explicit images of young children. Typically, these men find each other by posting similar interests to their Facebook profiles. Using common profile “likes,” such as the novel “Lolita,” the movie “Thirteen,” or any profile name including the words, “young,” “kid,” “angle,” or “child,” pedophiles searching for explicit images of children can successfully search for their otherwise hidden brethren.

Recently, one profile on Facebook, “Marcos Teia,” had more than 500 “friends” with whom he shared hundreds of these photographs directly on Facebook’s pages. His Facebook gallery began with a single photograph of a young girl, perhaps six or seven years old. She was not smiling in the picture. With her head turned slightly to the right, she looked coyly at the lens. Her hair was coiffed in a highly stylized arrangement with green and yellow ribbons. Along with other makeup, she was wearing lipstick, eyeliner, and shadow. She was standing outside, a blue sky and unidentified foothills behind her. She was holding an inflatable Daffy Duck. And she was completely naked.

Most of the child’s body is exposed in a sexual manner – making this photograph a violation of Federal Child Pornography laws. Anyone involved in or possessing the photograph could be prosecuted. The photographer, the men posting it, the men downloading it and keeping it on their computers – all of them – are guilty of violating Federal and State laws.

At the time, this was part of a collection that was growing online by the hour. Along with other photos of naked, costumed, and posed children, the sexually explicit images were simply a collection called “Model Kids” on “Marcos Teia’s” Facebook page. “Marcos” is clearly an online “avatar,” a falsified Facebook profile that effectively hides the true identity of the person behind the page.

“Marcos Teia’s” profile, which used Spiderman as a profile photo and has a Brazilian e-mail address, disappeared every so often. One day he was on Facebook with hundreds of friends – whose profiles also exhibited sexually explicit photographs of children and adults on the social networking site – and the next day he was gone. A few days later he was back, eager to confirm friend requests from anyone.

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Most of the reported 800 million users of Facebook probably think it was generally safe from such content and well patrolled. With some privacy concerns, the vast majority of Facebook users, from private citizens to major corporations, NGOs, politicians, and even the President of the United States, have no idea that it is home to a massive collection of unreported pornography of all kinds.

Having seen “Marcos’s” profile, images, and friends growing worse every day, I reported “him” to Facebook several times – which could explain why he vanished so often. Facebook may have deleted his account upon each of my reports. Yet he always returned a day or so later with the same name, profile photo, birthday, e-mail address, and, worst of all, sexually explicit photographs of children in his “Model Kids” collection.

Then, Facebook “groups” began appearing with names like “love little kids,” “nude boys,” “teen sex,” and the like. A Facebook visitor must request permission to “join” these groups, though once the request is made, acceptance is generally given within minutes. The images here were far worse than anything I had encountered previously. These photos – on Facebook – were clearly in violation of several federal laws.

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The proliferation of illegal photographs was so profound that I immediately contacted the FBI by phone. The person answering instructed me to fill out an online form – an “IC3” – at their Internet Crime Complaint Center. As I was doing so, I wondered if the FBI would send me to a website had I reported a bank robbery, a kidnapping, or a suspected terrorist. Nevertheless, I submitted the online report, detailing everything I had witnessed.

The following day, with my trust in the Internet having decreased that much further, I made the same report in person – along with a colleague – at the FBI offices in New Haven. Without an appointment we were immediately interviewed by an exceptionally professional and compassionate FBI Special Agent who took all the information we could give him. Though overworked and with a very busy schedule, the agent sacrificed a good part of his day to get a clear picture of what we had found on Facebook.

Our intent was to report the crime we had witnessed and make the authorities aware that these images were not being traded among pedophiles via some hidden, back channel website flying under the radar. This was Facebook. While the people of Egypt were using the website to essentially overthrow their dictatorial government, these others were openly using Facebook’s system to display and trade images of children being sexually attacked.

Soon after filing the report, we began a Facebook Cause, “Force Facebook To Block All Child Pornography,” which now has over 50,000 members (and so far, no comment from Facebook). We also started a Change.org petition, “Stop Child Pornography and Child Sex Trafficking on Facebook,” and built an entire website to get the message out, StopChildPornOnFacebook.com. We also went to the media where some brave journalists reported the story.

On February 1st of this year, Facebook announced it was filing to make an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of the company’s common stock. The deal is predicted to value the social networking site at $100 billion. This will give the company a value greater than most car companies, computer manufacturers, software firms, defense contractors, and other online businesses like eBay, Amazon, and most certainly Craigslist.

“Facebook faces a security challenge that few, if any, other companies or even governments have faced – protecting more than 500 million people (sic) on a service that is under constant attack,” said Simon Axten, a spokesman for Facebook, concerning security issues with his company’s website. Those “challenges” don’t seem to matter to the US State Department which remains totally unaware of the web-based exploitation issues. In June, 2011, the State Department praised Facebook in their annual Trafficking in Persons Report saying, “Whether through issue-specific media, or far-reaching platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the growing capacity of new media allows concerned parties around the world to connect and share information with a speed and breadth of access unimaginable at the start of the modern anti-slavery movement just a decade ago.”

Hopefully, another Federal Agency – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – will take a close look at the exploitation of children on the Facebook before it approves the massive IPO which will make Mark Zuckerberg one of the top ten wealthiest people in the world.

For now, the horror continues. And while many are eager to jump on the Facebook IPO bandwagon, it is one investment opportunity I am glad to ignore.

photo: dbarsky / flickr


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About Raymond Bechard

Raymond Bechard is an Author, Speaker and Human Rights Advocate. He has worked against injustice and for the freedom of all people for over twenty years. He often advises social justice organizations in their mission to bring hope and encouragement to the world. Among other writings he is the author of the recently published book, "The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America." Bechard also began Men Against Prostitution And Trafficking, the first anti-human trafficking Political Action Committee in America.

Comments

  1. It’s not just men being lured into this either but it seems women as well. I’ve received a few such “friend requests” having no idea what they were until now. I’ve rejected every single one of them.

  2. More mixing up of the Paedophile and Human trafficking stories.

    More Emotional Trafficking at the expense of the victims. P^/

    I have to wonder at the reported issues with facebook. They have actually been working rather closely with a number of agencies to catch a number of nasty people – Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), Europol, Interpol, FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Of course the full details of the activity are not made public knowledge for simple to grasp reasons.

    The whole facebook campaign meme seems to be more about marketing the subject and than empowering anyone to act – or even know how to act – who to communicate with. Using a web page and forensic analysis of web and Net traffick is an art – as are the techniques for securing evidence for prosecution and even in compliance with international laws across multiple Jurisdictions which have their own independent and nationally Sovereign legislation on such things as Data Protection and even Cyber Stalking.

    On the other hand, it has been made public that police forces have managed to take over the operation of Web Rings and systems that have been seized with criminals arrested and in custody – and once the networks and systems have been seized they are not just shut down, but used to continue investigations across Multiple Jurisdictions and resulting in Multinational Co-ordinated arrests and prosecutions on a global scale – including extradition of many from countries where they reside to countries where they hold citizenship and can be prosecuted.

    Odd how facebook seemed to not take notice of your reports – but then again it is quite possible that is was part of the ongoing international work with multiple law enforcement agencies with facebook co-operating fully.

    Do have a look at Operation Icarus – 22 countries – identified 269 suspects – 112 arrests and that was as of 16 December 2011 – and ongoing. That is just one operation that has been made public – and so many others just go on quietly and are never made public.

    Operation Sledgehammer is noteworthy too – mainly because the Majority of suspects were found to have found the material by accident – not viewed it, but were then traced by IP address and subject to investigation!

    Odd how you report a sort of failure by the FBI – and yet missed out such activity as “Precious Treasure Holiday Company” and how about “Wicked Adventures Travel”….. and so many, many more!

    I found it fascinating that there were so many links to Campaigns of facebook and other web sites – and yet not one link to a web resource that means a person could actually report child porn in real time is provided.

    “Then, Facebook “groups” began appearing with names like “love little kids,” “nude boys,” “teen sex,” and the like. A Facebook visitor must request permission to “join” these groups, though once the request is made, acceptance is generally given within minutes. The images here were far worse than anything I had encountered previously. These photos – on Facebook – were clearly in violation of several federal laws.”

    18 USC § 2252A – Possession, distribution and receipt of child pornography (mandatory min 5 yrs for distribution or receipt; max 20 years)

    Even looking for images on facebook can get you on the wrong side of federal law. Some Posts should carry a health and wealth warning!

    Of course – any person finding any such material on any website or via any web resource is best reporting it immediately online via recognised resources such as “National Center for Missing & Exploited Children” 24 hours a day at 1-800-THE-LOST.

    They also have a most useful on-line reporting tool, recommended by The federal Government, and any person who wishes to make immediate report can do so on This Link – https://report.cybertip.org

    In the UK report can be made instantly to CEOP – http://ceop.police.uk

    You can use those links from any place on the planet – and still make sure that the relevant authorities are aware and able to act.

    It’s so quick – the information gets to law enforcement and experts in the field at the click of a button – and even logs your IP address providing protection from being seen as breaching 18 USC § 2252A or other applicable laws in other countries – NO need to join any groups on facebook or go looking for evidence.

    CEOP even has it’s own facebook page http://www.facebook.com/clickceop

    facebook even have a CEOP tool that you can have on your own facebook page – makes it so much more efficient if you are hunting to get it reported there and then, rather than schlepping all the way to an FBI office and spending so much time filing a report – which delays action and even endangers children at risk!

    … and from a US Perspective the facebook entries for “The National Center for Missing Exploited Children”, telling you how to report web content can be found at http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Center-for-Missing-Exploited-Children/32507971987?sk=info

    Now why did relevant links on how to act immediately through the facebook interface itself not feature in the OP? P^/

    Nice Drama – Nice Headline – Shame About The Kids at Risk!

    • Thanks for the links to various LE reporting sites. You sound like a guy who cares. And you are right there have been some notable successes in the pursuit of these criminals. That said, your smartalecky accusations that others are engaged in “drama” or “emotional trafficking at the expense of the victims” diminishes your position or your counsel.

      As I pointed out to “assman” (below) …

      First, from the victim’s POV there IS a relationship between sexual abuse as a child and sexual victimization as an adult. Talk to them. Second, let me assure you that reporting links and statute of law routinely fall thru the cracks and are flat-out ignored. There is AMPLE, and DAILY evidence of Facebook’s abrogation of it’s responsibilities (corporately and humanly) to curtail these criminal pedophile postings (both still and video) of the rape of children OR to cooperate FULLY with law enforcement in the prosecution of these criminals.

      How dare I challenge you and say such things?

      Well, I’ll ask you the same question I asked “assman” but in a slightly different variation: How many such reports have you actually filed and TRACKED to their conclusion? How many law enforcement officials at either the State or Federal (or UK equivalent) or senior politicos have you talked to with regards to this violence? Any other SPECIFIC efforts on your part?

      I suspect I know the answers.

      My point is simple. You were right to pass along the resources/links. Glad to have you in the fight… but diminishing the story from a distance is puny on your part.

  3. Yep, using Facebook for child pornography is wrong.

    And using it to solicit or even buy sex from fellow consenting adults is… well, actually there’s nothing wrong with that. So why are they mixed together in the same article as though they’re the same thing?

    • Exactly! And why start talking about prostitution and then only focus on how your trying to stop pedophilia at the end of the article. Its just a way of conflating two very separate issues.

      Its a really dishonest way to write an article. If your against prostitution then write an article against prostitution. Not against child porn.

      • Question for you “assman”… how many victims of commercial exploitation (CSE) and pedophilia (by both male and female abusers) do you know by first name? My guess is, none. Those of us who have that 1st-person experience with multiple victims of each crime can tell you that the raped children of yesterday VERY OFTEN become the raped (for money) victims of tomorrow. Rape is their “normal”. It is all too often THE common denominator outside of substance abuse. Therefore the author is not “conflating” two separate issues. They are in fact and on the street very much related. Cudos on the nice word choice (conflate) and glad to help you get your head out of it, “assman”.

  4. Anthony Zarat says:

    It is impossible to take this article seriously because it presumes that all perpetrators are men and that all victims are women. This is absurd, false, and dangerous. The article egregiously exploits a social double standard to peddle a viewpoint that is disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst. It also puts millions of children at risk for exploitation by women, and lets millions of female exploiters off the hook.

    Here are some facts for the author to examine:

    1) Female perpetrators (including of children) are a common and growing phenomenon. Typically, the female perpetrator travels to a third world country (Jamaica, Indonesia, Senegal, etc). John Potterat estimates that there are 84,000 female prostitutes (“Estimating the Prevalence and Career Longevity of Prostitute Women” ), compared to 24,000 “cabana boys” who provide such services to women (according to Jeannette Belliveau’s book “Romance on the Road”). Of course, female crimes are excused and even exalted with naive euphemisms such as “instant vacation love affairs that banish loneliness, provide cultural insights, offer one-on-one, hand-to-hand foreign aid to the world’s poor” (from “Romance on the Road” sales pitch). Calling female criminal payments to the men that they purchase “foreign aid to the world’s poor” is a testament to the strength of the Western “all men perpetrators, all women victims” double standard — which the author is helping to perpetrate.

    2) Female exploitation of children is an enormous and growing problem. Google “The big list: Female teachers with students” to get some idea of how wide-spread this criminal activity has become.

    • “Female perpetrators (including of children) are a common and growing phenomenon. Typically, the female perpetrator travels to a third world country (Jamaica, Indonesia, Senegal, etc). John Potterat estimates that there are 84,000 female prostitutes (“Estimating the Prevalence and Career Longevity of Prostitute Women” ), compared to 24,000 “cabana boys” ..Calling female criminal payments to the men that they purchase”

      Wow! So you think its exploitation when a woman pays a man for sex? Maybe I shouldn’t complain about arguments like this because what it really amounts to forcing feminists and marxists to swallow their own bullshit. I guess its a good rhetorical strategy though I am extremely uncomfortable with it because it accepts the default feminist view.

      This comment kind of demonstrates the absurdity of the feminist view that men and women are the same. A man getting paid to have sex with a woman is just not the same as the opposite.

  5. MichelleG says:

    Thank you for your hard work and dedication, and creating those online causes. There is so much corruption in the world …people getting creative with technology for criminal activities — i fail to be shocked at anything anymore. A lot of people live double-lives.

  6. What about Gaia? Gaia towns is full of pedophiles- I once wandered into an area where people were propositioning each other and within ten minutes of being there, I got one man asking for nude photos and another claiming to be twelve and wanting “company”. For those who don’t know, you have to be at least fourteen to join the site (otr you did back then). When I pointed out that I was nineteen, both men backed off.

  7. glenn liguori says:

    encourage people to close their facebook accounts telling facebook the reason. that reason being facebook does not block child porn. – i did that. – how could anybody keep an account with facebook knowing they allow child porn?

  8. The Wet One says:

    For the record, I doubt that Facebook permits child porn. In my neck of the woods, facebook doesn’t even allow nudity.

    I’m sure they do what they can and do not condone illegal activity. They may not act on it as quickly as you might like, but sometimes things proceed slowly.

    As for the other problems with this article, I agree with Mediahound and Copyleft.

    All human suck. Therefore all of them should go to jail. See the conflation of issues there? Don’t do it with prostitution (which is one thing), involuntary or forced prostitution (a different thing) sex abuse (which is another thing), rape (another thing) child sex abuse (another thing), child prostiution (another thing) and so on. It’s not all one and the same thing and ought not be treated as such. After all, a whole lot of consenting adults are engaging in illicit sex with no money involved. Those people used to be committing crimes and were branded with the letter A or are put to death. Don’t go there if you don’t have to.

    • i can give you links that will show you for sure that graphic nudity and porn and child porn are very much so on Facebook. we fight every day and get them removed, sadly they come back in a week when the ban time is up. it is very real on facebook

  9. Here’s the problem with your logic: do you believe, even for a moment, that removing the Adults Services section of Craigslist actually reduced the numbers involved in the industry?

    Criminals will always find the resources they need. Prostitution predates the internet, it will stick around if the internet does not. Many law enforcement teams started finding that with Craigslist cooperation they had an easier time bringing criminals to justice. Now that tool is gone. You want real change? Legalize prostitution. Regulate it. Make it a real, non-stigmatized industry where women and men don’t have to worry about being treated as a criminal instead of a victim. Let the victims come forward for assistance, and let the people who have chosen sex work have their livelihood.

    See Prohibition and the ridiculous failed drug war for other examples. Rapists and pedophiles should be punished when proven guilty. Nobody disagrees with that statement. However is it too much to ask that maybe we reexamine the methods we use, especially if they have been less than effective? Holding a company or website responsible for the actions of its users, ie criminally sanctioning Facebook because people can use Facebook for terrible things is silly and completely counter-productive.

    Some relevant links from Techdirt.com:
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100503/1100119284.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091117/0053476960.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121002/07354820569/oh-look-police-can-use-backpagecom-to-track-down-arrest-convict-pimps-prostitutes.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070905/001541.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090430/0100494701.shtml

  10. Raymond: I have seen many of your articles and for the life of me can’t figure out why you ‘appear’ to be active in denying the existence of male victims. Am I getting it wrong, or have you advocated for male victims in your articles and I just haven’t seen it.

  11. kerrie mitchell says:

    well i havnt read anything on this pg yt but i want to say well done to the person that started the whole thing its about time there are lots wrong with fb 1. how do child philioloals get near a computer?

    2. theres the under age kids that their parents set up fb for them and they dont look there age their ages this days i have a step daughter thats 14yrs old and looks like a 16 yr old if fb is for age 13yrs up how comes theirs photo’s of 3/4 naked women or men ? always thought the legal age for sex was 16yrs and 18yrs old to buy or go into a sex shop

  12. i think it is a great thing, i myself am gathering every one i can to stand with us to shine some light into the dark places of facebook. i run a page and am a member of several other pages and groups that dedicate their time to reporting all the pornographic material on facebook.. and the amount of child pornography is disturbing. there are pedophiles swarming facebook now. and younger kids joining (with fake accounts). this is something that needs to be done.. the age for facebook sign up is 13 yrs old. and parents are supposed to monitor them, not all parents do, not all parents care to, and not all parents know their child has an account. it doesn’t even have to be something they search for, the stuff is showing up every where.. the pedophiles are taking profile pictures of kids and putting them on their own page, this is a serious issue that all people need to start paying attention to!

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