MANILA, PHILIPPINES – A new immersive virtual and augmented reality experience that takes users inside the world of people experiencing sex-trafficking reached more than 1.2 million viewers in 24 hours since going live, International Justice Mission (IJM)’s Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children is proud to announce.
‘Break Free to Fly’ – pioneered by social media giant Meta in partnership with IJM and international non-profits AIM, ECPAT International, and A21 – uses Meta’s state-of-the-art AR and VR technology and global reach to shed light on the dark world of sex trafficking, which ensnares an estimated 4.8 million people.
“We couldn’t have imagined such a vast uptake on this ground-breaking and game-changing campaign,” said Evelyn Pingul, Director of Brand, Media, and Communications, IJM Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.
“Sex trafficking, specifically the trafficking of children to create sexual abuse materials, can be a difficult topic to broach for new audiences - and so we applaud Meta for stepping in and using its resources to shed light on one of darkest corners of humanity.”
IJM helps lead a global fight against the online sexual exploitation of children, one of the world’s fastest growing and least understood crimes, in which children are forced to perform explicit sex acts for predators who pay to watch or direct the shows from all over the world.
With this new campaign, Meta harnesses its technology including AR filters, 360 video, and Horizon Worlds to educate Facebook and Instagram users by transporting them into an experience where they can hear the stories of trafficking victims to understand the intricacies of this heinous crime.
“Break Free to Fly is truly a compelling, immersive experience. We applaud Meta’s zealous efforts into this global campaign. Indeed, it takes a global response to combat this global crime,” said John Tanagho, Executive Director, IJM’s Center to End Sexual Exploitation of Children.
There are no reliable estimates yet on how many children are trapped in online sex trafficking dens. However, building on a 2020 study, IJM is developing a method to establish the prevalence of online sexual exploitation of children through the Scale of Harm project.
“Having an accurate estimate of this crime’s prevalence is key to designing, implementing and evaluating child protection interventions,” Mr. Tanagho said.
Since IJM began to focus on the emerging crime in 2016, over 1,000 children have been rescued from online sexual exploitation in the Philippines, which is the global hotspot for online sexual exploitation of children.
IJM, along with our partners, are a founding member of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center, which was set up in 2019, bringing together Philippine law enforcement agencies with Australian Federal Police, the United Kingdom National Crime Agency, and the National Police of the Netherlands. These countries house some of the most prolific sexually motivated offenders around the globe.
After running the campaign for 4 weeks, ads have reached nearly 10 million Facebook and Instagram users, generating a total of 27 million views or impressions. IJM strives in continuing its advocacy to protect more children from online sexual exploitation.