• Madison McClain

The Awakening: Human Trafficking on Wayfair, Pornhub, & Everywhere

Updated: Sep 17

2020 has introduced a number of eye-opening events including the Coronavirus pandemic, upcoming political election, Black Lives Matter movement, and viral Twitter content leading people to believe everyday objects could actually just be cake. Could this year get any more twisted? We now have a conspiracy theory involving online furniture companies and human trafficking to add to the mix.


Human trafficking is not a new issue. It is a form of slavery and is the second-largest criminal industry in the world. You may be wondering what exactly is human trafficking. It is more common than not to be uneducated on this issue as it is not spoken about or reported on nearly enough. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation. There are six forms of human trafficking:

  • Domestic servitude

  • Sex trafficking

  • Forced labor

  • Bonded labor

  • Child labor

  • Forced marriage

Reports have shown that sexual exploitation and human trafficking, especially of children, skyrocket during times of crisis, usually due to lack of resources or parental supervision and presence. With the Coronavirus pandemic moving schools online, children are required to spend more time on the internet, which increases the risk of online exploitation and trafficking.


Let's talk more about conspiracy theories that are currently happening right now and what you need to know about human trafficking.



Wayfair


A scandal has recently surfaced involving Wayfair and child trafficking allegations. On July 10, the home furnishing and decor retailer started trending on Twitter and not because of a big summer sale. Extremely overpriced dressers, armoires, and other furniture items with odd names caught the attention of a Reddit user who upon doing further research found two horrifying things. First, the user found identical pieces of furniture, however, one version was priced reasonably and the others were priced in between $10,000-15,000 - that's a lot of money for a storage cabinet. The second thing the user found was that the pieces of furniture not only had unusual names, such as Neriah and Yaritza, but these unusual names matched those of missing children.


















This instantly sparked conversation that moved from Reddit to Twitter and TikTok, and now TV news outlets have picked up this story. These allegations are truly horrifying and in response to them, Wayfair released the following statement:



“There is, of course, no truth to these claims. The products in question are industrial grade cabinets that are accurately priced. Recognizing that the photos and descriptions provided by the supplier did not adequately explain the high price point, we have temporarily removed the products from the site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point.”


Despite their statement and removal of these products as an attempt to appease the public, some social media users are still accusing Wayfair of human trafficking and saying the removal of the items is just a cover-up. Whatever the truth may be, it is a little naive to call this all a coincidence.



It's Not Just Wayfair


Unfortunately, it's not just Wayfair that has recently come under fire for human trafficking accusations. With signatures from 192 countries, the "Traffickinghub" petition calling to shutdown Pornhub is at over 1 million signatures. It has recently surfaced that this popular website has allegedly been enabling and profiting from the rape and sex trafficking of women and children. This case is driven by numerous videos of child rape and trafficking, adult trafficking, abuse, and exploitation monetized on the Pornhub website. Hundreds of organizations have endorsed this campaign and there have been protests in front of Pornhub's main office in Montreal, Canada, one of which took place on International Women's Day.


The campaign has led legislators in Canada and the United States to call for federal investigations on Pornhub's advising company, MindGeek. Inspired by the petition, U.S. Senator, Ben Sasse, released a letter to attorney general William Barr, not just suggesting, but demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice open an investigation into Pornhub and MindGeek. Canadian members of parliament also sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking the Government of Canada to look further into these institutions.


The campaign to shut down the world's largest porn site has drawn support from professionals in the adult entertainment industry who released a manifesto and a change.org petition supporting the Traffickinghub campaign rejecting Pornhub and its illegal, exploitative practices.


It's Not Just Pornhub


As if Wayfair and Pornhub weren't enough, Amazon is now joining the club of online websites accused of human trafficking with small but noteworthy proof. The global online resource giant sparked a series of theories after appearing to sell kids in the name of extremely overpriced household items such as pillows and furniture. Area rugs and carpets are allegedly being sold for $21,000+, pillows for $10,000+, tables for $16,000+, and the list goes on. Just like Wayfair, Twitter picked up on this horrifying theory.


The allegations stem from the fact that Amazon was selling normal products that should not cost thousands of dollars as they are listed for. However, the claims made by the social media users have yet to be presented with evidence outside screenshots of the company's high-priced items with human names that match those of missing children. Meanwhile, Amazon is yet to comment on the outrageous scandal.



It's Not Just Online, It's Everywhere


Human trafficking isn't only an online issue, and it's not just a 2020 issue. This is a form of slavery that has been practiced for centuries and is now made easier with the development of the internet and online resources. Research has found that it can take a pedophile as little as 20 minutes to groom a child into doing what they want them to over the internet. Here are some statistics to show just how common this practice is:

  • 12.3 - 27 million people are enslaved in forced labor, child labor, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude at any given time

  • 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation

  • 98% of trafficking victims are female

  • Almost every single country in the world is involved in some sort of trafficking

  • 15 is the average age of a child who enters the sex trade

  • Only about 5% of trafficking cases are reported

  • 1% of traffickers are tried in court

Let that last one sink in.


Human trafficking doesn't only occur in developing countries or other places far away. It's happening in your hometown and it's happening every day. It has been reported in all 50 states with 83% of the victims being U.S. citizens. The three states with the highest trafficking reports in 2019 were California, New York, and Texas. The three countries with the highest trafficking reports in 2018 were the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines.


It's time to wake up.



What You Can Do


Unfortunately, not enough is being done to put an end to human trafficking. So many people have been affected, are being affected, or will be affected by this inhumane practice. This topic is not spoken about enough and should be incorporated into the education systems just as tornado drills, fire safety, and drug and alcohol use are. Learning the signs that someone is possibly being trafficked and what traffickers look for in a victim could save the lives of many.


Traffickers look for vulnerable young people, making children the perfect target. Online traffickers look through social media or gaming apps. They often will send out a hundred of messages at a time looking for a handful of young people who will respond back. These messages might be something like, “I’m having a terrible day, can I talk to you about it?”, compliments or the recently popular "I'm looking for a sugar baby to spoil, no contact necessary, I just want to talk." Once they have made contact, they will start to build a relationship and attempt to gain the trust of the young person. If a young person is seeking love or attention due to not receiving it elsewhere, they will be drawn to these types of relationships.


Simply instilling confidence and raising the self-esteem of our young people is vital in preventing them from becoming a vulnerable target. Traffickers look for those with low confidence or self-esteem because they will be easier to control. This is why it is so common for females to enter the sex trade who come from a rough upbringing; they seek the opportunity to get out and were not taught to be independent.



Luckily, there are many online resources that provide education on the topic. There are also organizations to join or donate to that help with this cause providing help for survivors of trafficking. We are still in a time where it's "protect your daughters" rather than "teach your sons to not be rapists and traffickers", but that's a conversation for another day.


The good news is that this practice is starting to receive more attention and prevention organizations are gaining a larger following with the current traction. If things continue at this speed, there will be a better and brighter future for everyone worldwide. Someone is being trafficked this very second, and it makes you wonder, who was looking out for them?


If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

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