Sudanese Teenage Bride Auctioned on Facebook

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bride auctioned on facebook
image: @abdugeek / TechEngage

According to a report by Reuters, barbaric auctioning of a teenage bride in Sudan happened on Facebook. In a bizarre event from the nightmares of dystopia, men of South Sudan started a bidding war on Facebook last month. This war existed in the comments section of a post ‘advertising’ a seventeen-year-old girl for marriage. The post circulated online for several days and bids poured in. Consequentially, a wealthy businessman bought the little girl.

This horrifying account of a teen bride being sold on Facebook is, unfortunately, not a standalone event.  It’s yet another example of how violent hatemongers have used Facebook’s platform in developing countries in recent years. In Myanmar, ethnic violence forced over 700,000 members of the Rohingya community to flee the country. The UN has linked the unexpected spread of violence to racists’ posts spread on Facebook. The riots led to thousands of murders. In Libya, rival militias have used Facebook to spread fake news and hate-filled messages which worked to multiply the violence in the country. And now, people hoping to win big dowries have once again used this platform to sell an underage girl.

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The original post-marketing the 17-year-old was published on October 25th. Facebook only removed it on November 9th, days after the people had already married off the girl. According to a spokesperson for Plan International, a girls’ rights activist group, the post went viral in South Sudan. They said:

“So anyone who was on Facebook in South Sudan was well-aware of this situation far before the rest of the world.”

It’s unclear why it took over two weeks to remove the post. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch:

“Any form of human trafficking — whether posts, pages, ads, or groups is not allowed on Facebook. We removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted this to Facebook. We’re always improving the methods we use to identify content that breaks our policies, including doubling our safety and security team to more than 30,000 and investing in technology.”

Child marriage is already illegal in South Sudan. But the practice has continued despite efforts from the government and advocacy to end it. This is the first famous effort of people using Facebook to make these illegal exchanges. And it led to one of the largest reported dowries ever received in the area. Advocates fear the high payment could spark more interest in trafficking girls for marriage on the platform in the future. According to the Plan International spokesperson:

“It attracted more attention and gave those who might have thought about participating a greater reason to do it because of the kudos attached. This is something that is even more dangerous and something that we don’t want to see happening again or becoming a popular movement.”

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