Child trafficking is real; it’s an incredibly heavy issue; and it’s universally abhorrent. Many people, like you, want to see children protected. People in positions of power understand this and are using it to try to manipulate the public for their own gain.
This is not new. However, over the last several months, we’ve seen an increasing number of situations in which the issue of child sex trafficking and exploitation is being co-opted to push profits and political agendas. These efforts harm children and survivors as they cause retraumatization and misdirect scarce attention and resources away from the actual issue of child victimization.
These leaders claim to care about children, and yet they knowingly use and exploit the issue of child trafficking to further unrelated goals. The public is being manipulated — at the cost of child victims. Victims of child exploitation deserve better, and so do you.
Two recent examples:
Big Tech uses child exploitation to smear rivals.
The Washington Post published an article detailing how Meta (formerly known as Facebook) hired a consulting firm to push false op-eds and posts tying rival social media app TikTok to child exploitation in order to tarnish their reputation. According to the Washington Post, “The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor.” One campaign director stated, “Dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger.’”
Politicians use child exploitation to advance their agenda.
Several congressmen, including Senator Josh Hawley, made efforts to characterize Judge Ketanji Brown as someone hurting the cause to stop child sexual exploitation, with Hawley tweeting that he had “noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children.” The National Review’s take on this tweet was that it was “a misleadingly broad claim, and Hawley is too smart not to know that.” Whatever your personal perspective is regarding Judge Jackson, several lawmakers decided to manipulate public opinion by misleadingly implying that her confirmation would further embolden child abusers and traffickers. According to the Wall Street Journal, these efforts “were criticized by people across the ideological spectrum who said Mr. Hawley’s commentary lacked context, [and] misconstrued Judge Jackson’s conduct and writings.”
“We are not your plot device.”
When the movement to help victims and prevent trafficking has to compete with these malicious efforts and the noise they create, harm is being done and it can hurt efforts to support actual victims. In the words of the National Survivor Network, “This is a gross move that not only misinforms the public and leads to sensationalism, but that once again also reminds survivors of human trafficking that our experiences are something only relevant to non-survivors when they can exploit them (or fear them) for power, political gain, fundraising, or marketing leverage. We deserve better. Survivors of child exploitation and trafficking want you to know: We are not your plot device, marketing pawns, or political fodder. Full stop.”