There is evidence that people are using Facebook to buy and sell internal organs, which is illegal. Here is what we know about this developing story.
1. Facebook Has Groups Dedicated to Organ Sales
VICE reports that there are Facebook users out there who have attempted to sell their organs using the social networking site.
VICE writer Victoria Turk explains her findings:
“I did a quick search on Facebook for ‘buy sell organs’ and came up with a group in the first page of results that last saw activity at the end of 2013. Posts ranged from jokes —’ill sell my kidney for eminem tickets’— to seemingly genuine offers of body parts, such as one from a 30-year-old Indonesian man who gave his contact details to arrange selling a kidney with the explanation, ‘I want money for living in world.'”
While many people in the industrialized world are seeking organs for their own use due to illness, the Soundcloud clip above talks about organ trafficking for people who use the organs in witchcraft rituals.
2. Selling Organs Is Illegal
How harsh a sentence does this man deserve for brokering organ sales? http://t.co/gO6wAeq9
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) July 12, 2012
In many countries, including the UK, selling one’s organs is illegal. In the UK, the sale of organs is banned by the Human Tissue Act. In the US, a federal law was passed in 1984 that prohibits organ trafficking.
Famously, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after pleading guilty to organ brokering.
3. Poverty Motivates People to Sell Their Organs
The Bloomberg video above talks about the ways impoverished people are bullied into selling their organs.
In their expose of Facebook’s organ black market, the Sunday Post argued that the main reason people were selling their organs was due to poverty.
The Post writes:
“Our reporter posed as the brother of a woman desperately needing a transplant and placed an advert on a Facebook page specifically set up to buy and sell organs.
Within a week he had received 11 offers from desperate people worldwide willing to risk their lives to drag themselves out of poverty…
Among the people to contact us was a man from north-east England who claimed he realised it “would be a big thing to do but for the right amount I would be willing”.
Our reporter held detailed discussions with the self-employed dad-of-three, including his blood type, the state of his health, a £30,000 payment for the donation and arrangements to meet in person.”
4. This Is Not Facebook’s First Brush With Organ Donation
A contrarian take on Facebook's organ donation status updates. http://t.co/QmyF5IwI
— NYTimes Bits (@nytimesbits) May 1, 2012
People have been talking about Facebook’s possible role in the organ trade for years. In 2012, Scientific American reported on Facebook’s decision to let users list their organ donor status on their profile pages.
Scientific American also cited some research about Facebook users interested in organ transplants:
“3 percent of the pages received offers to sell kidneys, mostly from people in Third World countries. Would-be donors typically asked for $30,000 to $40,000, even though selling organs is illegal in most countries. In addition, only 5 percent of pages mentioned the risks of kidney donation (such as possible internal bleeding and/or infection as a result of the surgery) and only 11 percent mentioned associated costs.”
5. Facebook Likely to Crack Down on Organ Groups
While Facebook may have a hard time policing the behavior of its users, it does seem likely that Facebook will take steps to limit people’s abilities to sell organs on the site.
Recently, Facebook said it would crack down on users who were using the site to conduct illegal firearms sales. You can learn more about this policy in the Bloomberg video above.