The GuardianThe Guardian

How Facebook and Instagram became marketplaces for child sex trafficking

By Katie McQue and Mei-Ling McNamara

27 Apr 2023 · 22 min read

The Guardian investigates the disturbing link between social media and child sex trafficking, sharing powerful stories from survivors and the dedicated advocates fighting this growing issue.

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Maya Jones* was only 13 when she first walked through the door of Courtney’s House, a drop-in centre for victims of child sex trafficking in Washington DC. “She was so young, but she was already so broken by what she’d been through,” says Tina Frundt, the founder of Courtney’s House. Frundt, one of Washington DC’s most prominent specialists in countering child trafficking, has worked with hundreds of young people who have suffered terrible exploitation at the hands of adults, but when Maya eventually opened up about what she had been through, Frundt was shaken.

Maya told Frundt that when she was 12, she had started receiving direct messages on Instagram from a man she didn’t know. She said the man, who was 28, told her she was really pretty. According to Frundt, Maya told her that after she started chatting with the man, he asked her to send him naked photos. She told Frundt that he said he would pay her $40 for each one. He seemed kind and he kept giving Maya compliments, which made her feel special. She decided to meet him in person.

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