Sunday, May 23, 2010

When the Internet is Good... can be very good.

If you read the MetaFilter thread about Russian students in possible danger from one of my previous postings, you'll know the story isn't quite over. But it's been taken up by Newsweek, Mother Jones, Gizmodo, and a Slate Blogger who doesn't believe the story. It's also hit Digg and been explained on Reddit.

Some people are wondering if the girls were really in danger. On another thread, Miko provides context.

Another MeFite created a MetaFilter Wiki entry that sums up the situation and provides links to media coverage of the tale.

In the meantime, the girls are on a summer work visa and have no work, so needed to find an immigration lawyer and good advice. And the heroic gal who met them at the bus station missed a job interview out of pure exhaustion after helping them out, then Paypal shut down her account because of the suspiciously large amounts pouring into it. Word is still pending on how that will all turn out, but the MetaFilter community is on the job, and displaying the best of humanity.

Something you may not know about MetaFilter: it costs $5 to join. So if this was some kind of hoax, someone put a lot of money into it. In addition, the people involved have been posting to MetaFilter for years, so that's a lot of set up time for a hoax. I've been following MetaFilter for a long time and recognize a lot of the names involved. As far as I could tell, these are genuine people who were worried about what appeared to be a very shady operation. And while it's certainly possible that their concern was overblown, the situation was familiar enough to officials who deal with human trafficking that law enforcement got involved.

So, yay internet! And yay MetaFilter!


Dwight Williams said...


Sleestak said...

I smelled shenanigans, but then I'm very cynical.

Michael Jones said...

I never MetaFilter I didn't like.

Tegan said...

I smelled shenanigans, but then I'm very cynical.

For the record, because of the nature of the initial request (information, not help), the people involved, and the way things played out in real time I never once doubted that this was happening. Whether or not the girls were ever in any real danger is debatable. At the best, they were dealing with an incredibly incompetent sponsor who put them into a situation that looked exactly like human trafficking to those in the know, at the worst they were headed for a very bad time. Saving them from incompetence is not as heroic-sounding as saving them from potential sex slavery, but it's still a good thing.

I'm very interested to see how this plays out over the next few months, and if we ever get to see anything more about the exact situation. Because it's real life, it's messy and confusing and we may never get all the details, but I'm hoping that what we do get will be something that can open people's eyes to the fact that slavery still exists and needs to be stamped out. More awareness of the problem is a good thing.