Human trafficking: An unchecked culture
By: Mitchell Popovski
*This article contains content relating to sexual abuse & elements of pornography that may be upsetting to some readers. Caution is advised.*
When people think of human trafficking, they often think of dark rooms in some foreign country, but that evil is happening in their backyard. The United States is the largest market for a type of human trafficking which gets registered as Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). Everyday, material labeled as child pornography is shared all around the world.
Currently the U.S. is believed to host over 20,000 different websites that have CSAM content, with roughly 156 different images being uploaded to the internet every single minute. Obviously, this is highly illegal content, but many Americans are content with turning a blind eye and moving on with their lives.
The issue is that the sites being used are fairly mainstream. Adult entertainment sites such as Onlyfans are expected to have sexual content uploaded there, but other sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Google and Reddit are now often being used by traffickers to sell or share this material.
Operation Unknown, an organization run by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, aims to end child sex trafficking and save the victims from those awful situations. They claim that there are currently over 50,000 unidentified children appearing in this type of content. The majority of these children are alone, having the worst moments of their lives being sold online for profit.
Back in 2019, this issue came to light when a 15-year-old girl that was missing, was found being abused in multiple videos on one of the most popular pornography sites in the world. In this instance, the girl was thankfully rescued from this awful situation and her trafficker was arrested. However, this instance shows that these cases are not exclusive to black market-like exchanges. CSAM content is being filmed at such a high rate because the market is there. People continue to purchase this content, increasing both the demand for the content and for children to abuse.
Traffickers are only helped by the lax laws surrounding production of this content. Child pornography is highly illegal, but many websites that feature pornographic material allow anyone to upload. To do so, they must state that they are 18 years of age or older, a requirement that traffickers can easily get around. Onlyfans, for instance, does not require that all those involved in the content are of legal age — just that the account owner is of age, making it easier to include minors in their content. Customers of Onlyfans or similar sites, rightfully expect all participants to be of age, meaning many would be unknowingly upping the demand for child trafficking.
Child sex trafficking is an issue that needs more attention by the American public. Without public attention, these children will only continue to be abused and shared online. Traffickers and pedophiles are not the only people who need to be targeted in order to prevent this material from being posted, but also the websites that do not ensure that every participant is a consenting adult. Without public backlash, these websites will only continue to ignore the obvious issue, and people will continue to unknowingly fuel the CSAM market.