Facebook Criticized for Allowing Auction of 16-yr-old S.Sudanese Girl on its Platform


Social networking tech giant, Facebook is yet again a target of criticism for not doing enough to regulate content posted on the platform, after a 16-year-old girl in South Sudan was auctioned off to a man using Facebook.

The girl identified as Ngong Deng Jalang was bid on by five men for marriage, and according to media reports, some of the men were high ranking officials in the government of South Sudan. It is said that the girl’s father received 500 cows in addition to three Toyota Land Cruisers and US$ 10,000 from the man who married the young girl. She will become the tenth wife to the Juba based businessman named Kot Alat.

But children’s rights defenders have termed the act as nothing short of human trafficking and have condemned Facebook for aiding such a gross rights violation.

George Otim, the Director of children’s rights organization, Plan International in South Sudan, compared the auctioning of the 16-year-old to slave trade which saw millions of black people sold to whites.

“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” Otim commented.

The auction is said to have begun on October 25 and the girl in question was finally married off on November 3. But Facebook took down the post on November 9, two weeks after the auction commenced and six days after the girl had been sold off by her family.

Facebook said in a statement; “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.”

At least, 52% of the girls in South Sudan are married before turning 18.

Rosebel Kagumire, a Ugandan rights activist and expert in digital communication underscores the need for Facebook to make its response to complaints timely given the gravity of some of the red flags raised on content.

“I think that definitely the system of reporting has been much quicker today given the speed at which news spreads, but it still takes weeks for Facebook to respond, yet lives could be at stake. So, there has to be a responsibility by Facebook to act on these reports quickly,” Rosebel Kagumire told SoftPower News.

She however adds that the role of fighting such dehumanizing content should not be left to Facebook alone, but that local authorities including Police must equally play their part.

“Facebook alone can not resolve these issues because they [issues] are largely local. There has to be an understanding that when I as a user sees something posted on Facebook, that there are agencies through which I can report this matter so that it is taken up. Facebook isn’t government, it can’t replace systems in a country”.

This is the latest in a series of controversies that Facebook has been sucked into over the last few years, relating to its failure to rid the platform of offensive posts, rights abuses, fake news and slander.

In 2016, Facebook was accused by the UN of enabling the spread of ethnic propaganda in South Sudan which partly fueled the ethnic war that has killed thousands and displaced millions of South Sudanese.

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