Four people in Indonesia have been arrested after police discovered a child trafficking ring selling babies on Instagram.
Police were alerted to the now suspended account with the handle "Konsultasi Hati Privat," or Private Heart Consultation, which had as many as 700 followers.
According to CNN, posts on the account included ultrasounds, pregnant mothers, and and pictures of babies with information about their age, gender, and religion. A phone number was also also posted, and according to police conversations, about transactions were conducted on Whatsapp.
The account claimed to offer pregnancy consultations and adoption services, but police say they found evidence of monetary transactions.
Indonesian police say they have broken up a child trafficking operation that was allegedly buying and selling babie… https://t.co/bmh3meDzxT— CNN (@CNN) 1539344824.0
Authorities arrested four people in relation to the account, including a 22-year-old mother and 29-year-old suspected broker in Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya, along with a midwife and a suspected buyer who were arrested on the resort island of Bali.
Hilda Meilisa Rinanda/Detik
The mother, who has only been identified as LA, allegedly tried to sell her 11-month-old child for the equivalent of $985. Along with paying the mother, the seller was also to pay $328 to the broker and $164 to Alton Phinandita, the owner of the Instagram page. All four face up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.
According to news website Detik four babies were sold during the three months that the account operated, although authorities were only able to secure one 11-month-old child.
The account also reportedly contained screenshots of Whatsapp conversations between operators and clients, including one with a pregnant woman who contacted the group looking to sell her baby provided they hide her until the birth so her family wouldn't find out.
Sustano, head of Indonesia's National Commission for Child Protection (KPAI), said social media has changed how traffickers operate these days.
"In the old days, the transaction happened in person and it was usually arranged through a middleman. But now, they are using new and more advance methods, through social media like Instagram and Facebook. The cyber world has become a tool for promotion and transaction.
Amanda Bissex, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF, thinks it's important for authorities to adjust their policies to better adapt to the digital age:
"If the use of Instagram is proven in this case then it shows how traffickers constantly adapt to new methods for their trade."
Although Indonesia has "made significant efforts," according to a 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, the country is still a major trafficking hub with over 100,000 children being trafficked last year, the majority of which were sold into the sex trade.
Those on social media reacted strongly to the story.
@CNN Holy crap...— Cat #TeamAvocadoSupportCouncil (T.A.S.C.)🥑⚖️🥑🥑 (@Cat #TeamAvocadoSupportCouncil (T.A.S.C.)🥑⚖️🥑🥑) 1539350074.0
@CNN https://t.co/flWRHkT2ng— 🎃 Bᴀʀʀʏ Wɪʟꜱᴏɴ [SᴏʟɪᴅSϙᴜɪᴅ] 🦑 (@🎃 Bᴀʀʀʏ Wɪʟꜱᴏɴ [SᴏʟɪᴅSϙᴜɪᴅ] 🦑) 1539349280.0
@CNN https://t.co/JvlPJctJWR— Fuzz The Pi Guy (@Fuzz The Pi Guy) 1539345307.0
And many congratulated Indonesian authorities and thanked them for their efforts.
@CNN Good congratulations to stop and safe the child trafficking.— vipin (@vipin) 1539345534.0
@CNN Disgusting. Glad to hear justice will prevail.— Brandon Yergey (@Brandon Yergey) 1539346835.0
@CNN God That's just Too Sad. I'm Glad They Got Them Though— Lori C. (@Lori C.) 1539357428.0
@CNN Great job to the Indonesian police! Thank you all!!— Glen MaCostello (@Glen MaCostello) 1539355874.0
The trafficking ring was not the first case of illegal activity on Instagram which is widely used for illegal drug sales. The persistent illegal activity has left some to wonder when Instagram or its parent company Facebook will finally address the issue.
@CNN Another @Facebook run company - Wonderful job Facebook— #Walkaway Democrat👌🏻 (@#Walkaway Democrat👌🏻) 1539385791.0