Facebook allowed South Sudan family to auction off 16-year-old girl as child bride: report

Facebook allowed a family in South Sudan to auction off a 16-year-old girl as a child bride last month, according to multiple reports.

The tech giant, which prohibits human trafficking on its platform, did not delete a post requesting payment for marriage to the girl until she was already married, CNN reported. The post reportedly went up on Oct. 25 and was taken down two weeks later.

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The girl, whose identity is not publicly known, was married on Nov. 3 and has now gone into hiding in South Sudan's capital, the information minister of the country's Eastern Lakes state said in a statement, according to Business Insider.

"Any form of human trafficking — whether posts, pages, ads or groups is not allowed on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, CNN noted. "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," the spokesperson added.

Children's rights organization Plan International found that the girl's father received 500 cows, 3 cars and $10,000 in exchange for his daughter. Five men, including some "high-ranking government officials," bid on the girl, according to the organization.  
 
"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 for Plan International South Sudan, said in a statement. "This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets."  

South Sudan's legal marriage age is 18, but 52 percent percent of the country's girls are married before then, according to UNICEF's 2017 report.  

Human rights activists have mobilized around the girl's story.

"Violations against women in South Sudan are a continuing issue, but for Facebook to allow their platform to enhance these violations is a problem," Judy Gitau, the regional coordinator for women's rights organization Equality Now, told CNN. 

"[Facebook] ought to put in place more human resources to monitor their platform to ensure that women's rights, and indeed the rights of all people, are protected," she added. 

Facebook has come under fire multiple times in recent months for enabling violence and malign activity on its platform.  Earlier this month, the company admitted that it failed to stop its platform from being used to exacerbate violence in Myanmar. 

New York Times investigation found that Myanmar’s military launched a disinformation campaign on Facebook that helped foment ethnic cleansing against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.