Can The Internet Be Used to Fight Human Trafficking?

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Flickr: Birgerking

The Internet, like all tools, can be used for good or bad. Human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery that often involves forcing people, including children, to have sex for money, is part of the dark side. It’s well-known that traffickers get online to exploit victims and advertise their services through social media and classified sites.

But what if the Internet were used against these traffickers? A year-long investigation into technology and human trafficking showed that online traffickers leave behind a trail, which can be followed by investigators working to combat human trafficking.

The report, called Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds, includes results from preliminary research and shows how tools, such as data mining, mapping and advanced analytics, can be valuable weapons in the fight.

Researchers from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism also include a set of suggested guidelines to inform future research and technological interventions in human trafficking:

Five Recommendations for Using Technology to Stop Human Trafficking

  1. Victims and survivors of human trafficking should benefit the most from all created technologies.
  2. Success from anti-trafficking technologies will require cooperation among government, nongovernmental and private sectors, sharing information and communicating in a coordinated manner.
  3. Private technology firms should recognize that their services and networks are being used by traffickers and should take steps to prevent trafficking.
  4. Continuous work is needed to make sure tools are user-friendly and updated over time according to shifts in technology and trafficking.
  5. Human rights should be considered with the use of advance technologies.


2 thoughts on “Can The Internet Be Used to Fight Human Trafficking?

  1. I noticed that you did not mention the many other areas of labor into which adults and children are trafficked. The traffickers use the internet to sell adults and children into domestic servitude, garment manufacturing etc. as well as sex. The majority of adult ads are posted by consenting adults and it would be prudent to decriminalize consenting adult commercial sex so that those who choose to engage in sex work can turn in those who abuse them without fearing their own arrest. No one in the sex industry wants to see ANYONE forced into ANY labor including into the domestic/janitorial/ housekeeping industry.
    I trust you are aware that when the government agents “rescue” anyone from so called sex trafficking- of whatever age, they actually arrest these individuals, and put them in jail where they are frequently raped either by another inmate or the corrections officers/ jail guards. And the rate of rapes by staff in jails and in prisons ought to give anyone pause- for example, the Justice Department estimated that more than 217,000 prisoners, including at least 17,000 juveniles, were raped or sexually abused in America in 2008 (The Economist, May 5, 2011). How are we going to fix this problem?