Four people in Surabaya, Indonesia, have been arrested over an alleged baby-selling ring operated via social media platforms — namely Instagram and Whatsapp, according to a report by BBC citing local media.
According to local police, the alleged criminals ran the scheme using an Instagram account which purported to belong to a family welfare agency.
The account posted images of pregnant women, ultrasound scans and newborn babies, along with a phone number for "customers" to make a contact via WhatsApp.
"People who want to adopt children use that account and the transaction is completed through WhatsApp," Col Sudamiran, Surabaya's chief detective, was quoted by by local media as saying.
The police said they managed to intercept one transaction, but admitted that at least one baby has been sold through the service, and that they are currently searching for the child.
In one post — a screenshot of a chat — a woman reportedly says she is pregnant and does not want her family to find out, so she is offering her baby for adoption. Another post shows a picture of a pregnant woman and provides a phone number for those interested in "adoption." None of the posts explicitly mentioned the selling or buying of children.
During the police operation, four people were arrested — a 22-year-old mother who wanted to sell her 11-month old child, a buyer, a broker and an alleged owner of the Instagram page, officials claimed. Police said the buyer had arranged to pay 15 million rupiah ($985) to the mother, 5 million rupiah to the broker and 2.5 million rupiah to the page owner.
If convicted, all four might be sentenced to 15 years in prison for violation of child protection laws.
Rita Pranawati, vice chairman of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, said that while there have been other cases of child trafficking in Indonesia, the use of Instagram as a conduit is novel.
"It's very rare to happen through Instagram. It's a new modus," she said.