INDONESIAN authorities said they arrested four people in connection to a baby-selling ring that uses Instagram recently in yet another revelation of how criminal elements abuse social media websites.
The bust came after the authorities intercepted a transaction from an account claiming to be an adoption agency which posted pictures of pregnant women, ultrasound scans and babies, according to the BBC.
Police in the port city of Surabaya said the account listed a phone number so that interested buyers could contact the seller via WhatsApp.
The authorities said after tracing the transaction, they are now looking for one baby who was recently sold.
“People who want to adopt children use that account and the transaction is completed through WhatsApp,” Col Sudamiran, Surabaya’s chief detective, said.
The company in question had disguised itself as a consultation offering to solve family problems. With 700 followers, the Instagram account featured babies with their faces blurred out, along with details such as age, location and religion.
The account also featured what appeared to be conversations between the company and clients.
Police said the arrests were made on Sept 3 after the transaction was detected, adding in one case, a 22-year-old Woman had attempted to sell her 11-month-old child.
The buyer was asked to pay INR15 million (US$985) to the mother, and other commissions to the broker and owner of the Instagram page.
Rita Pranawati, vice-chairman of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), said although there have been cases of baby-trafficking in the country, baby-selling on the social media outlet was a new phenomenon.
“It’s very rare to happen through Instagram. It’s a new modus.”
The motives of the buyers were not clear but Pranawati said most people wanting to buy a baby through such means could not do so the legal way.
As Indonesia looks clampdown on drugs, traffickers and peddlers are turning to technology to sell their illicit products.
Police said some sellers were found using social media to promote drugs and using ride-hailing services like ojek (motorcycle taxis) to cover their tracks, according to the Jakarta Post.
National Narcotics Agency (BNN) spokesman Senior Commissioner Sulistiyandriatmoko was quoted as saying the modus operandi of using social media platform to distribute illegal drugs and have them delivered via app-based ojek services had begun in January this year.
Sulistiyandriatmoko said in March, authorities seized 41 litres of vaping liquid containing cannabis from a suspect in South Tangerang, which was going to be sold online.
The BNN said would strengthen its coordination with the Communications and Information Ministry to monitor the trading of drugs online.
“The (app-based) transportation services must also intensify their monitoring of the goods to be delivered to customers.”
In June, animal rights activists said Southeast Asia’s illegal trade in wild otters has moved online to target buyers across the region and as far away as Japan.
TRAFFIC, a group that monitors wildlife trafficking, said the region, home to four endangered species of otters, has seen high demand for young otters as pets, which are now being sold on social media and websites.
Although the species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), some of them are not legally protected in Southeast Asia, leaving them vulnerable to poaching and trade.
“The online commerce of very young otter cubs for the pet trade adds a new dimension of concern,” said a regional TRAFFIC official, Kanitha Krishnasamy, as quoted by Reuters.
It added More than seven in 10 animals were younger than a year.
Between 2015 and 2017, four Southeast Asian countries confiscated 59 otters in 13 seizures, most of them in Thailand and Indonesia where commercial breeding may be taking place. At least 32 seized en route from Thailand to Japan, the group said, adding Southeast Asian governments should step up enforcement to curb the illegal activity.