Facebook under fire for child bride auction posts

An auction was discussed on Facebook for a girl aged 16 or 17 in South Sudan that sought payment for her hand in marriage. Facebook said the post was taken down as soon as the company learned of it, but that wasn't until after the girl involved was married. CNN's Farai Sevenzo reports.

Posted: Nov 25, 2018 2:46 PM
Updated: Nov 25, 2018 3:15 PM

Facebook has come under fire after posts discussing the sale of a child bride were made and shared on its site.

An auction was discussed on the social media platform for a girl aged 16 or 17 in South Sudan that sought payment for her hand in marriage.

Facebook said the post was taken down as soon as the company learned of it, but that wasn't until after the girl involved was married.

According to children's rights organization Plan International, the girl was bid on by five men, some of whom were reportedly high-ranking South Sudanese government officials.

Activists are concerned that this auction -- for which the father reportedly received 500 cows, three cars and $10,000 in exchange for his daughter -- could inspire other families to use social media sites to receive larger payments.

Plan International's country director in South Sudan, George Otim, said: "That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world's biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief."

He added: "This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets."

'It just went viral'

South Sudanese human rights lawyer Phillips Ngong told CNN the auction took place in person and not on Facebook.

Ngong said the family had no intention of posting to Facebook, but the dowry amount pledged for her was higher than usual and generated a lot of discussion among Facebook members.

"In South Sudan, Facebook and social media is a brand new thing. Someone just took a picture. And it just went viral," he added.

Though Facebook said the post was taken down on November 9, posts discussing the dowry were still live on Friday, November 23.

These posts discussed the price being offered for the girl by the highest bidder, as well as how much Facebook users would offer for her. CNN has flagged these two live posts to Facebook, which has yet to issue comment.

The man who won the bidding for the teenager, businessman Kok Alat, did not find out about the girl through Facebook, Ngong said. CNN has reached out to Kok Alat as well as the girl's family for comment.

But the marriage of the girl is still egregious, Ngong said, particularly as a state government official is believed to be among the bidders. Ngong said it was a direct violation of child marriage laws by those in power: "Anything that happens that is not in the best interest of the child is a violation. And the constitution and child laws are very clear on that."

South Sudan's Constitution states that marriage requires the "free and full consent" of those intending to marry. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18, according to the country's Child Act, 2008, which adds that "every child has the right to be protected from early marriage."

Removed from Facebook

Facebook said in a statement to CNN that any form of "human trafficking -- whether posts, pages, ads or groups is not allowed on Facebook."

"We removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted this to Facebook," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

"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.

Otim from Plan International told CNN that offering payments is part of the country's culture, but that in this case it "was taken to another level because of technology."

The South Sudanese National Alliance for Women Lawyers (NAWL) told CNN that the auction was not posted by her family, but by someone from the community instead, and that the family benefited from the bidding war.

"A few of our colleagues were able to get in touch with the mother (of the bride) and she was not happy about it," said Suzy Natana, a lawyer at NAWL.

She added that the marriage took place on November 3, 2018, according to locals the association spoke with.

Natana said that this is the highest bride price that has been reported in the region. She added that NAWL is against the process of bidding because "it makes you more of a commodity instead of a human being."

An organization focused on gender equality, Equality Now, called on Facebook to improve its monitoring practices.

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

She told CNN that Facebook has a responsibility to uphold women's rights, and added: "They 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."

Call on government to investigate officials

Plan International has also called on the South Sudanese government to investigate and suspend any officials involved in the bridal auction.

"Child marriage is a serious violation of human rights and a form of violence against girls," Otim from the group said in a statement.

"It can have profound consequences on a child's survival, health, education, development and well-being and is often carried out against their will and best interests."

Otim told CNN the solution for preventing child marriages is to try to keep girls in school, but admits it "requires a lot of effort to change" the culture.

According to UNICEF's November 2017 figures, 52% of girls in South Sudan are married before they turn 18.

The United Nations' agency, which aids the world's needy children, says that the country's high levels of poverty, instability and gender gap fuel child marriage -- with both girls and their families feeling it can help them escape poverty.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 818652

Reported Deaths: 15378
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147091924
Mobile724971336
Madison52231697
Shelby37575349
Baldwin37224549
Tuscaloosa35073612
Montgomery34092739
Lee23519246
Calhoun22221482
Morgan20910378
Etowah19816498
Marshall18338303
Houston17360412
St. Clair16034339
Cullman15406293
Limestone15328199
Elmore15186286
Lauderdale14270295
Talladega13827281
DeKalb12637261
Walker11180370
Blount10179176
Autauga9967148
Jackson9860183
Coffee9205191
Dale8884185
Colbert8840201
Tallapoosa7079198
Escambia6766132
Covington6706183
Chilton6633161
Russell635259
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion4995126
Dallas4949200
Pike4791105
Clarke475484
Geneva4568127
Winston4507103
Lawrence4309117
Bibb424686
Barbour357576
Marengo337890
Monroe331463
Randolph329864
Butler325896
Pickens315682
Henry311966
Hale311188
Cherokee302360
Fayette292379
Washington251351
Cleburne247460
Crenshaw244875
Clay243068
Macon234163
Lamar223347
Conecuh185953
Coosa180040
Lowndes174764
Wilcox168739
Bullock151644
Perry138340
Sumter132938
Greene126644
Choctaw88227
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Oxford
Mostly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 62°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather