A 16-year-old South Sudanese girl was reportedly auctioned on social networking giant Facebook Inc as a 'virgin bride'. By the time Facebook intervened and pulled down the post, the damage had already been done. Around five people participated in the auction, and the highest bidder paid 500 cows, three luxury cars and $10,000 (Rs 7.1 lakh) as dowry. The picture of the girl with the bidder was posted on the social network after their marriage. The incident has yet again exposed loopholes in Facebook's monitoring practices.
The Facebook post inviting bids appeared sometime in October and the child bride was married to a wealthy businessman on November 3. A CNN report confirmed that the girls' family organised the auction through the social media platform to seek the highest dowry in return for their child.
Facebook confirmed the auction took place on its platform, and that it removed the post on November 9. The account of the person who put up the post was also permanently disabled. Reports quoted officials from the war-torn nation saying the girl has gone on missing in the country's capital city Juba after the incident.
South Sudan is a poor country in East-Central Africa. The country is embroiled in an intense civil war, which has decimated its economy and resulted in deaths of over 3.8 lakh people since 2013. The use of Facebook to auction the underage girl shows the darker side of the technology. Many activists have said this could spark a chain reaction, with more people putting up girls for auction on the social network in the poor country.
"That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world's biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief," George Otim, the Country Director of Plan International, an independent development and humanitarian organisation, in South Sudan, said, reported CNN.
Facebook has issued an apology, saying the company has in recent times doubled its security team to keep a check on such activities. "Any form of human trafficking - whether posts, pages, ads or groups are not allowed on Facebook. We removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted this to Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
"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," added the company.
Many other organisations have also come forward, urging Facebook and the South Sudanese government to take stringent action against such people.
As per the United Nations children's agency UNICEF, over 50 per cent of South Sudanese girls are wed before their 18th birthday. The legal age of marriage is 18-years-old in the country. Due to poor education, many people in the country think child marriage could protect their girls from indulging in pre-marital sex.
Raising alarm bell, child rights activists have said it is high time that Facebook takes precautionary measures against such practices and protect the rights of women.
Edited by Manoj Sharma
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