Instagram baby-selling bust prompts call for ‘cyber patrols’

“Social media providers have to be more responsible, have more cyber patrol, and report to the authorities anything irregular so the government can take action,” said Rita Pranawati, deputy head of the government-backed National Commission for Child Protection. (AFP/File)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Instagram baby-selling bust prompts call for ‘cyber patrols’

  • “We have seen sex traffickers use Facebook to recruit victims before, but this is the first time we see babies being sold through Instagram,” said the deputy head of the government-backed National Commission for Child Protection
  • Instagram said it has “zero tolerance” toward child exploitation and — along with Facebook, its parent company — it plans to increase the number of content reviewers

KUALA LUMPUR: Social media companies should step up oversight of their networks and cooperate more closely with authorities, Indonesian child rights advocates said after police busted a human trafficking ring offering babies for sale on Instagram.
Police arrested four people last week in the city of Surabaya who were connected to an account on the photo-sharing application, according to local media reports.
Anti-trafficking experts say technology is fueling modern-day slavery by enabling traffickers to ensnare more victims, expand their illicit empires and outfox law enforcement across the world.
“We have seen sex traffickers use Facebook to recruit victims before, but this is the first time we see babies being sold through Instagram,” said Rita Pranawati, deputy head of the government-backed National Commission for Child Protection.
“Social media providers have to be more responsible, have more cyber patrol, and report to the authorities anything irregular so the government can take action,” Pranawati told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Jakarta.
The Instagram account, which had over 700 followers before it was removed, shared photos of pregnant mothers and babies whose faces were blurred.
It was run under the guise of offering adoption services for mothers who had given birth to children out of wedlock, but police have said there was evidence of money transactions.
Instagram said it has “zero tolerance” toward child exploitation and — along with Facebook, its parent company — it plans to increase the number of content reviewers.
“Our policies clearly prohibit people from engaging in criminal activity and coordinating harm on our platform, which includes the sale of humans,” an Instagram spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Indonesia has 131 million Facebook users and 59 million Instagram users, according to the data provider Statista, making the country of 260 million people the third and fourth largest audience for the two social media giants, respectively.
“Traffickers are exploiting the popularity of social media to recruit their victims and clients,” said Patar Sihotang of the Jakarta-based non-profit Human Trafficking Watch.
“People who face economic hardship or are in debt tend to fall victims to these online traps.”
An estimated 100,000 children are trafficked each year in Indonesia, with the majority forced into sex trade, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.


Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan becomes farmers’ star after clearing loans

Updated 58 sec ago
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Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan becomes farmers’ star after clearing loans

  • Farmers and other agriculture workers together make up about half India’s 1.3 billion people
  • Bachchan wrote in his blog this week that he had helped 1,398 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and felt a ‘sense of accomplishment’

CHENNAI, India: Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan was hailed on Wednesday as a star of India’s farmers after clearing loans worth more than 40 million rupees ($560,000) as an agricultural crisis forces many rural workers into extreme poverty.
India’s farmers have been hit hard by a drop in commodity prices, stagnant wages, record fuel prices and high fertilizer costs, sparking rallies across the country this year calling for better prices for produce and loan waivers.
Farmers and other agriculture workers together make up about half India’s 1.3 billion people.
“It is a very big problem that has left farmers across the country in dire straits,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers’ Union) told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
“The government policies are flawed and need an overhaul. We are fighting for that change but are thankful for any help that comes along the way.”
Tikait said Bachchan’s gesture might have been symbolic but it meant a lot for farmers who were struggling to survive.
More than 12,600 farmers and agricultural workers committed suicide in 2015 alone, accounting for about 10 percent of all suicides in India, with almost 60 percent of suicides caused by bankruptcy and indebtedness, according to official data.
Bachchan, one of Indian cinema’s most revered actors, wrote in his blog this week that he had helped 1,398 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and felt a “sense of accomplishment.”
“Gratitude leans across to the desire of removing some of the burdens that farmers continue to suffer ... and the inner peace it generates when the desired is completed,” he wrote.