Home News Facebook lambasted over ransom video of traffickers abusing migrants

Facebook lambasted over ransom video of traffickers abusing migrants

Author

Date

Category

- Advertisement -

U.N. migration agency said it was inappropriate for Facebook to host a video showing the faces of vulnerable people being abused

By: Emma Batha

LONDON, Aug 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – People smugglers are using Facebook to broadcast the abuse and torture of migrants in order to extort ransom money from their families, the U.N. migration agency said on Friday.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) lambasted the tech giant for failing to police the platform and help crack down on traffickers.

- Advertisement -

One video hosted on the site since June shows Libyan gangmasters threatening emaciated and abused migrants – mostly Somalis and Ethiopians – huddled in a concrete room.

IOM said the traffickers had sent clips to the captives’ families via the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp – a Facebook channel – along with threats that their loved ones would be killed unless ransoms of up to $10,000 were paid.

One young Somali man is seen lying face down with a concrete block on his back. “I was asked for $8,000,” he says, according to the IOM. “They broke my teeth. They broke my hand. I have been here 11 months. They put this stone on me for the last three days. It’s really painful.”

British newspaper The Times, which ran the story on its front page on Friday, also quoted a young Ethiopian who had been held for 15 months. “They beat me with iron bars,” he said.

“They ordered me to pay $8,300 and my family cannot afford to pay that amount.”

Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe since 2014, and thousands have died trying.

Facebook, which has also been criticised for failing to stop traffickers using the platform to advertise their services, said posts by smuggling groups would be removed if reported.

“We encourage people to keep using our reporting tools to flag this kind of behaviour so it can be reviewed and swiftly removed by our global team of experts, who work with law enforcement agencies around the world,” a spokesperson said.

But Facebook said it had not removed the June video as it had been posted by a Somali journalist and was important for raising awareness of the problem.

However, IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle accused Facebook of “arrant nonsense”, adding that the smugglers had used the journalist to publicise their demands.

He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it was totally inappropriate for Facebook to host a video showing the faces of vulnerable people being abused.

“Don’t let Facebook off the hook here,” he said. “It’s an absolutely nonsensical argument that it’s up to the public to notify Facebook of stuff that’s happening on Facebook.

“They should invest heavily in policing their platforms to stop vulnerable migrants being exploited, extorted and murdered.”

Doyle said the IOM had tried without success to talk to Facebook about targeting smugglers.

“They should stop smugglers telling people there’s an El Dorado waiting for them in Europe when it’s a lie,” he added.

“It’s not good enough to say, ‘we are a technology platform, it’s got nothing to do with us’.”

Doyle said the IOM had tried to find the people in the video, but they had disappeared.


(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

Send in your scoop to news@theindependent.sg 

- Advertisement -

Ex-UOB vice-president charged with mishandling over S$5.4 million

Singapore—Sixty-five-year-old Ling Shek Lun, who used to be a  vice-president at UOB, has been charged with mishandling millions of dollars, reported straitstimes.com (ST) on Friday (Feb 19). Ling, a Singaporean who was charged in district court on Feb 10, faces two charges...

Journalist asks Lim Tean if he’ll denounce the racism on Abolish CECA Petition FB page

Singapore—Journalist Kirsten Han asked lawyer and opposition leader Lim Tean on Thursday (Feb 18) on social media whether he will denounce the “blatant racism” on the Abolish CECA Petition Facebook page. Mr Lim, the People's Voice party founder and leader, is named...

Woman prevents passerby from calling ambulance after her husband hits motorcyclist and pillion rider

A video of a woman trying to stop a passer-by from calling an ambulance, after her husband was the one who hit a motorcyclist and his pillion, went viral. The video was circulated online on Wednesday (Feb 17) and published on Facebook...

Send in your scoop to news@theindependent.sg 

Theindependent