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Facebook Used as Platform for Underground Organ Trade


It sounds like something you'd expect to crop up somewhere in the deepest recesses of the dark net, but somehow it's turned up somewhere as public as Facebook: illegal underground trade in vital organs. And British citizens have started using it. According to an investigation by The Mirror, a kind of co-op started between criminal gangs, willing donors and desperate (often dying) patients has developed on the gigantic social hub. Kidneys and other organs have been sold off for transplant for prices going up to £75,000.

I'm not even sure where to start with something like this. It is, obviously, deeply illegal, but Facebook is notoriously difficult to police and even when investigators do ferret out this kind of thing, getting to the root of the issue can be almost impossible. Of course, a big part of the problem is that UK residents are in a state of such desperation that they actually feel the need to resort to such extreme measures. Almost half of all people who get illegal transplants get infections and are seven times more likely to die than if they got one through the normal parameters.

On the other side of the equation, perfectly (or at least reasonably) healthy people in counties like India, Sri Lanka and China are willing to have their organs sliced out and sold off for as little as few thousand pounds, such is the extent of their poverty. Even if online investigators are eventually able to track down the brokers who set up these dealings, the trade would likely find some other conduit to continue. It's a disturbing reminder of the things people will do to survive, be they poor, ill or both.

Facebook is no stranger to criminal activity, and although most of it surrounds harassment, threat and abuse, numerous cases of drug dealing have cropped up over the years, although we only ever tend to hear about the dealers who are stupid enough to get caught. The trouble with organ transplants is that while it's strictly illegal in the UK, laws are a lot more relaxed in places like Pakistan and China, so the actual sale between the two places, using Facebook as a bridge, is kind of a grey area.

Where it gets even murkier is when the consent of the donor comes into question. Many of these 'fixers' decline to provide all but the most pertinent information about the donors, implying that some of them might have been threatened or otherwise forced into giving up an organ. Even when there is consent, it's impossible to determine how much of the fee actually finds its way back to the donor, but the trade itself has a £1 billion-a-year turnaround.

There's a lot of blame to pass around here, but it's hard to condemn Facebook. They are likely doing everything they can to discourage this kind of thing and it went on long before social media existed, it's just easier now. In some ways, the distinctly public platform Facebook has unwittingly provided for black market organ trade might help to stamp it out for good. If the UN can agree that laws about organ trade need to become more stringent as a result of these reports, the data trails left by fixers could well be followed until they are found and arrested. It's an optimistic notion, but this whole thing is so spirit-shreddingly depressing I had to find some kind of silver lining.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Facebook Used as Platform for Underground Organ Trade Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 Rating: 5
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