An annual report on human trafficking indicates that the Facebook platform facilitated 59% of all active sex trafficking cases in the United States, mostly minors.

The 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report published by the Human Trafficking Institute ‘provides the only exhaustive review of human trafficking prosecutions in the US federal courts. The report presents data from both sex trafficking and forced labor prosecution and supplements its analysis with information from civil human trafficking lawsuits.’

For the second year in a row, Facebook was the platform through which sex traffickers recruited their victims. 65% of these victims were minors, and the remaining 35% were adults. Instagram is the second app where more cases of underage recruitment occurred, adding up to 14% of the cases.

“The Internet es a major platform for traffickers to recruit sex trafficking victims and solicit buyers of commercial sex. In 2020, 59% of online victim recruitment in active sex trafficking cases occurred on Facebook,” the report states.

As the introduction explains, active cases refer to instances where there is a plaintiff and a defendant. In 2020 there were 1499 active cases where there were legal proceedings.

In 2020 there was an 11% increase in the number of human trafficking cases over 2019, but by contrast, there were 8% fewer convictions of reported traffickers.

“In 2020, federal courts convicted the lowest number of defendants in human trafficking cases since 2012. In 2020, 163 defendants were convicted—an 89% conviction rate. This is a 51% decline in convicted defendants from 2019,” states the Federal Institute.


Another important piece of information provided by the report is that the most commonly used app for traffickers to trick their adult victims is WeChat, the Chinese social network that became popular in the United States as well, Facebook in second place and Instagram in third place.

Victim demographics

A total of 218 new sex trafficking cases were filed in federal courts in 2020. Because this type of legal proceeding takes years to resolve, in 2020, there were 561 active human trafficking cases in total, counting those from previous years.

Of the 1499 victims identified in last year’s active cases, 50% were girls under the age of 18, just 3% were boys and 44% were adult women.

The Federal Institute of Human Trafficking explains that starting in 2000; there was a change in the behavior pattern of criminals dedicated to trafficking people for sexual exploitation.

“Online solicitation has dwarfed other tactics used by traffickers to solicit buyers of commercial sex for over a decade, appearing as the primary form of solicitation in over twice as many criminal cases as any other method each year since 2008.”

Prior to the 2000’s traffickers would usually go to bars, parties, and search the streets looking for victims.

What Facebook says and what its background is

“Sex trafficking and child exploitation are abhorrent, and we don’t allow them on Facebook,” Facebook told CBS News. “We have policies and technology to prevent these types of abuses and take down any content that violates our rules.”

However, on February 25, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) released its 2020 report listing websites reported for hosting child sexual exploitation content where the social network Facebook took 95% of the total incidents.

One of NCMEC’s goals is to eliminate child abuse material, sex trafficking, and online enticement of children using reports from electronic service providers (ESPs), which during 2020 reported 21.4 million reports of “instances of apparent child sexual abuse material” on their systems.

Of the 21.4 million reports, Facebook records 20.3 million incidents of child sexual abuse, a figure that represents 95% of the total number of cases.

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