FACT CHECK: Are Texts From The IRL Social App Linked To Sex Trafficking?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook more than 19,000 times claims sex traffickers use unsolicited text messages containing internet links to track the locations of potential victims.

“Extremely scary,” reads the caption. “Make ur (sic) daughters aware.”

Verdict: False

The claim has been routinely debunked as an internet hoax since 2018.

Fact Check:

The Facebook post, which has been shared more than 19,000 times, features a text message that says, “Someone complimented you!” The text message also encourages recipients to click the iOS and Android links.

“Attention all girls if you get this do not click the link its (sic) a sex trafficking site that puts a tracker on your phone,” reads the caption. “Girls are going missing this is not a joke.” (RELATED: Are Human Traffickers Putting Zip Ties On Windshield Wipers To Distract Victims?)

The links in the pictured text message redirect to the Apple and Android mobile application store pages for a social app called IRL, not a sex trafficking site. IRL, which stands for “in real life,” allows users to “send and receive invites to hang out with friends in real life,” according to its frequently asked questions page. Users can invite others to join the app and send virtual compliments via text message.

“IRL is designed to allow communications only between people who know each other and have each other’s phone number,” an IRL spokesperson told WUSA 9.

The Daily Caller didn’t find any media reports of sex traffickers using IRL to track the locations of potential victims either, only numerous media outlets debunking that claim. Spokespeople for IRL have also addressed the claim on several occasions.

“The claims are absolutely false,” an IRL spokesperson told WUSA 9. “We have not had any reports of sex traffickers on our app or targeting our users.”

Another spokesperson told Snopes that collecting location information is “not even technically possible” when people click on either link in text messages from the app.

This isn’t the first time rumors about supposed tactics used by human traffickers to abduct their victims have circulated online. In December 2019, the Caller debunked a viral hoax about traffickers putting zip ties on car windshield wipers to distract women before abducting them.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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