In September, 2011 the USC Center on Communication Leadership & Policy released a comprehensive report examining the role of social networking sites and online classified ads in facilitating human trafficking. Find the press release below. The executive summary and full report can be found at: technologyandtrafficking.usc.edu
Internet Is Potent Weapon in Global Fight Against Human Trafficking
New USC report details steps to be taken by industry, government and NGOs
“The time has come to harness the power of technology to go after those using it to enslave others,” California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris
LOS ANGELES, September 20, 2011 –The rapid expansion of the Internet is being used to facilitate human trafficking, yet it also can be harnessed to monitor and combat this form of modern-day slavery. This is the finding of a new report from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
The result of a year-long investigation by CCLP research director Mark Latonero, Ph.D., and his team, Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds focuses on how technology and online tools can be used to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.
“Data mining, mapping and advanced analytics can be developed to support law enforcement and other organizations in fighting human trafficking,” says Latonero. “The report also describes how mobile phone applications, crowdsourcing and other new technologies might be used to help victims.” Many of these innovations were examined with expertise provided by Professor Eduard Hovy and colleagues at the Information Sciences Institute at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.
While it is difficult to quantify the extent of human trafficking on the Internet, this research establishes that online criminal exploitation of trafficked victims is an undeniable fact.
“We must be united in the fight against human trafficking. The USC Annenberg Report demonstrates that the modern practice of human trafficking has, to a large extent, migrated online,” said California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “The time has come to harness the power of technology to go after those using it to enslave others.”
Just as the Internet has given traffickers easier means of exploiting their victims to a wider audience of “johns,” online technologies also offer new ways to combat human trafficking, according to the report. For example, online communications from or to traffickers leave behind traces in cyberspace. This information provides important glimpses into criminal behavior, techniques and patterns. And if anti-trafficking investigators can assemble enough of it, they can take specific actions to help victims and prosecute traffickers.
A common starting point for investigators is combing through photos and online advertisements searching for potential victims of sex trafficking, particularly girls who seem younger than their advertised ages, the report reveals.
In addition to documenting cases, Human Trafficking Online proposes ways Internet technologies can help combat human trafficking, according to Latonero.
William H. Dutton, professor of Internet studies and director of the Oxford Internet Institute agrees. “Researchers cannot afford to ignore the dark side of the Internet,” he says. “This report explains how the Internet can be a proactive tool for detecting, locating and addressing human trafficking. It provides valuable guidelines for policymakers and practitioners that are based on multi-disciplinary research extending to a clear legal and technical understanding of how to go after the traffickers.”
Human Trafficking Online calls for immediate action to develop monitoring and prevention techniques and makes recommendations for industry, law enforcement, researchers and NGOs to combat trafficking.
“The technology industry and the anti-trafficking community are beginning to explore new ways that technology can help in the fight against human trafficking,” adds Samantha Doerrof Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. “This report is a valuable step forward in that effort, and Microsoft is proud to be working with the University of Southern California and others to drive further research, awareness and the development of innovative disruptive actions and technologies to fight human trafficking.”
Human Trafficking Online offers a set of guidelines to inform future technological interventions in support of anti-trafficking efforts. However, the report cautions that adapting these technologies and methods requires careful consideration of potential implications for civil liberties-such as privacy and freedom of expression-and the report addresses these crucial issues.
“The Center is committed to exploring ways to use communication technology to serve the public good,” said Geoffrey Cowan, USC University Professor and CCLP director. “Dr. Latonero and his research team have probed the nexus of technology with this global problem and they have come up with creative and potentially important initiatives. We are looking forward to continuing work with our partners to make a major dent in global trafficking.”
Human Trafficking Online is available at www.humantraffickingonline.org or by firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Technology & Trafficking Initiative
CCLP’s Technology & Trafficking Initiative began in 2010 with a meeting convened in Washington, D.C. by CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan with Alec Ross, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser for Innovation, and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Tech Gets Enlisted In The War Against Human Trafficking
By SHEILA RILEY, FOR INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY Posted 12/03/2010 04:38 PM ET
The fight against human trafficking is using a few new weapons: texting, iPhone apps and smarter passports.
An estimated 12.3 million adults and children around the world are trafficked — compelled in a variety of ways to work against their will — the U.S. State Department says.
“It’s basically modern-day slavery,” said Mark Latonero, research director for the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center. “It’s a pernicious and widespread global problem.”
The term “trafficking” covers a wide area.
“It’s not just forced prostitution, it’s also forced labor — people working in slaverylike conditions on farms, fishing boats, in nail salons, whatever,” Latonero said.
He’s working on a project to make it easier to get help for trafficking victims via cell phone.
The Technology and Trafficking in Persons Research Initiative will allow concerned citizens, potential trafficking victims and possibly victims themselves to text information to a hotline. The project is led by the Annenberg Center.
Texts will be sorted by a computer and sent to appropriate agencies that could help, Latonero says.
The initiative focuses on the Mekong region in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, southern China and Burma.
“This part of the world is a major source, transit and destination region for men, women and children forced into labor and prostitution,” Latonero said.
Cell Phones Aplenty
The program could be in place by mid-2011 in Thailand, with government funding and philanthropic grants expected to cover the $500,000-plus launch costs.
Though residents of the region are extremely poor — which makes them vulnerable to trafficking — most have cell phones, Latonero says.
“That,” he said, “is our opportunity.”
Phones are used on another front in the fight against trafficking. An iPhone application for consumers concerned about whether forced or child labor was used to create their purchase became available last month.
The app, Free2Work, is a joint project of Not For Sale, a San Francisco anti-slavery nonprofit, and the International Labor Rights Forum, a nonprofit advocacy organization for workers. Juniper Networks (JNPR) funded the development of the application, which is free.
With the app, shoppers can access information about the labor practices of some 60 companies, including Nike (NKE), Hasbro (HAS), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Apple (AAPL). It rates the companies’ labor practices. Not For Sale compiles information from company Web sites and public databases to create its corporate ratings.
“It’s when people are shopping that they really need that information,” said Dave Batsone, president of Not For Sale.
(See original Investor’s Business Daily Article here).
From mobile active’s Melissa Ulbricht:
“Since the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January, thousands of internally displaced persons are living in camps, where it is often not easy to report incidences of violence. An ongoing project from Survivors Connect uses mobile phones to support camp managers and community leaders to protect women and encourage people to report incidences. The project, called Ayiti SMS SOS — Ayiti comes from the Creole word for Haiti — allows individuals to submit reports via SMS.
Survivors Connect is an organization that works to enhance anti-trafficking movements around the world through the use of new media and connective technology. Survivors Connect partners with grassroots organizations to incorporate new technology to help improve on-the-ground efforts toward protection, prosecution, and prevention.”
This conference takes place Oct 14-15, 2010, in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. Interesting mix of speaker – mostly faith based anti-trafficking groups, law enforcement, and NGOs. And Jack Dorsey, founder/creator of Twitter will also speak on “Organizing 2.0: Putting a face on social media: Can social media be a tool for change, or is it simply used for connecting with constituents and raising funds? Social innovators will discuss how today’s movement can embrace new media and become more effective.”
Of course, there are many other dimensions of social media with regard to human trafficking…not least of which is facilitating the business.
Created in the autumn of 2008, End Slavery Now (ESN) is a charitable organization based in Washington DC. Their mission is to utilize the widespread capabilities of the Internet to help fight against human trafficking. To do this, they have created an aggregate website that both serves to inform the public about trafficking while being a host to a bevy of links and information in how to get involved.
“Our purpose is to support the work of grassroots activists and anti-trafficking organizations, and to grow and advance the anti-trafficking movement, by consolidating and sharing resources, best practices, and events; and by promoting their work through various social media channels and free listings in the New Underground Railroad™.
ESN leverages the power of the Internet combined with database technology to empower members of the anti-trafficking movement to efficiently coordinate their efforts to combat slavery; to share information with partners and stakeholders; to coordinate grassroots efforts through social networking; and to make meaningful contributions in the anti-trafficking movement.”
Their website consists of: an up-to-date global news feed (as of 10/5/10), a self-published blog, photo and video galleries, a basic overview of the human trafficking situation, a global calendar of anti-trafficking events, governmental and organizational links that are anti-trafficking based, and additional ways to keep receiving updates via email to social networking tools.
The Center on Communication Leadership & Policy’s research team of Mark Latonero and Erin Kamler have returned from a fruitful exploratory trip for the Technology and Trafficking in Person project the Center is launching in Southeast Asia. According to a report prepared by the research team, an information sharing platform could provide significant assistance to agencies and organizations working to combat human trafficking in the Region. The full report of their findings can be downloaded here.
Latonero and Kamler are working with Senior Fellow Jeremy Curtin to move the project forward after a promising start.
From August 8 to August 15, the team met with numerous NGOs and government organizations in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
According to Latonero, “we focused on the Mekong Sub-Region (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Yunnan China and Burma), an area of critical needs in combating Trafficking and one in which possible technological solutions are just beginning to emerge. Our team centered the initial research trip on Thailand and Cambodia, listed as Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 2, respectively, in the Department of State’s 2010 TIP report. Both countries are source, transit and destination countries for men, women and children forced into labor and prostitution.”
The team conducted a needs and assets assessment of organizations working against human trafficking. CCLP proposes to focus on two interrelated immediate needs where technological solutions could have a significant impact: A regional cross-border SMS and voicemail enabled hotline; and a standardized victim identification and case management system to serve as an information sharing platform.
The TIP project was conceived out of a working group held in Washington, D.C. on June 3 in coordination with Alec Ross, Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation. Participants included Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, other U.S. Government representatives, leaders in the technology field, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and academics active on TIP issues. Latonero and Kamler’s trip was originally announced on the CCLP blog on August 2, 2010.
“Human trafficking is one of the largest criminal activities in the world today. Every year
throughout South and South East Asia, individuals fall victim to both sex and labor
trafficking both within their countries and after crossing international borders. The large number of Asian migrants searching for better opportunities provides a breeding ground for traffickers and illegal labor brokers. Many individuals begin their journey safely, only to later be ensnared in trafficking. In some countries in Asia, the extent of sexual exploitation has been exacerbated by demand from foreigners in tourism sites. Child sex tourism is a serious and, according to some reports, growing problem. Labor trafficking takes place in various settings including in the garment, construction, logging, fisheries, and agricultural industries. Trafficking not only undermines the security of communities but also violates the human rights of victims, who often experience physical and emotional suffering, trauma, rape, threats, and in some cases, death.
To combat this scourge, since 2000 the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has supported more than 30 anti-trafficking programs in eight countries in South and Southeast Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the
Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. USAID has helped to bring human trafficking to the attention of all levels of society in South and Southeast Asia, building political will and public awareness, and helping governments, communities and local non-governmental groups take action against traffickers and assist trafficking victims. Many individuals, primarily girls and women, were able to avoid being trafficked as a result of these efforts. This report serves as a desk review of these programs.”
I joined my colleagues from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy at the USC Annenberg School on June 3, 2010 in D.C. to convene a meeting with the US Department of State to address the very question above.
There are pressing needs for NGOs, law enforcement, Governments, victims, and the general public dealing with Trafficking in Persons, also known as TIP, Human trafficking, and modern day slavery. Victims are usually isolated and even if rescued are socially cut off and unable to find the services they need most. NGOs for human trafficking often are not in regular communication with each other or, for example, HIV/AIDS NGOs. Law enforcement are often unable to access data and information about victims and perpetrators in country or across borders (and are sometimes complicit in trafficking activities). And the public are often unaware of the signs of human slavery that exist in their everyday lives. ICTs, particular mobile technologies and the Internet, help connect, locate, and share information about and among individuals and communities. Leveraging the assets of emerging ICTs to combat human trafficking is a pressing concern. The dilemma, of course, is that traffickers and slavers themselves use the very same technologies. Jeremy Curtin, Sr. Fellow at the Center wrote up the following re-posted from here: http://communicationleadership.usc.edu/blog/state_department_and_congressional_policymakers.html
CCLP & State Department launch exploration of ways to use Technology to combat Human Trafficking
State Department and Congressional policymakers, along with nongovernmental organization and technology industry leaders convened in Washington, D.C. Thursday, June 3, 2010 to explore new ways communication technology might be used in global efforts to combat human trafficking.
The meeting held at the USC Washington, D.C. Center was organized by USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy in partnership with assistance from the U.S. Department of State. Geoffrey Cowan, CCLP director and USC University Professor, co-chaired the gathering with Alec Ross, Secretary of State Clinton’s senior adviser for innovation.
Ross opened the meeting with remarks about 21st Century Statecraft, a concept introduced by Secretary Clinton that acknowledges the complexities of globalization and the proliferation of new technologies.
He posed questions as to what the role of new technologies should be in responding to global crisis, as well as the role of public-private partnerships. Using the recent disaster in Haiti as a launching-point, Ross asked how technology might be best utilized to connect governments to people, people to people, and people to governments. He explained that text-messaging projects were implemented immediately following the earthquake, raising millions of dollars for the relief effort and building public awareness about the disaster; however, these types of coordinated efforts have not yet been effectively undertaken to combat trafficking in persons (TIP). USC Annenberg’s role, he stated, would be to act as a “convener outside of government;” a safe and dynamic space to bring together people who can tackle TIP related issues in new, innovative ways.
Following Ross, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Senior Advisor to the Secretary provided an detailed overview of the challenge.
Pointing out that human slavery is not a new problem, the Amb. CdeBaca identified three main issues that he hoped the meeting would address: demand, victim-care, and the ethical use of technology.
In regard to demand, Ambassador CdeBaca stated that [in both sex and labor trafficking] there is a need to “clean up the supply chain”; potentially using technology to “name and shame” those who perpetuate related crimes.. About victim-care, he reminded participants that vulnerability and victimization come in many forms: from economic and gender-based forms of discrimination, to mental illness and situations of domestic abuse. He noted the need to create jobs to provide to victims of human trafficking during their rehabilitation. Finally, in regard to technology and ethics, the Ambassador reminded the group that many new technologies are, in fact, created using exploitative labor and human slavery. We have an obligation, he said, to know how our technology is being made and to make sure it is created under ethical conditions.
Cowan moderated a focused and engaged discussion in which he asked participants to describe ground-level view of conditions in various countries as they pertained to trafficking in persons. The needs of victims, service providers, and policy makers were considered. Of particular interest were the types of social support services available to victims and the steps that many organizations have already taken to integrate new technologies into their efforts.
Amy O’Neill Richard, Senior Adviser in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) described a national trafficking hotline that has been implemented with support from Lexis Nexis, while Eric Beinhart of USAID described an effort led by Microsoft to educate the public and isolate predators through gathering and sharing case data about child exploitation and trafficking. Several participants spoke to the idea of empowering community members through implementing SMS texting and crowd-sourcing technology.
Participants also identified key problems and discussion topics related to trafficking in persons, and asked technology experts to respond to these issues as they were introduced.
Some of these problems/discussion topics included: the use of anti-phishing/spam to be used to address labor trafficking issues; tracking illegitimate websites and job offers through a “TripAdvisor” for jobs model; the systemization of border patrol and better training of law enforcement officers (particularly in the developing world); links between trafficking and disease; the use of Google mapping or satellite imagery to combat TIP; making information about human resources more readily available and accessible in an effort to prevent TIP; using technology to track transit routes; making SMS transactions more accessible; creating a unified system for capturing data on trafficking-related criminal cases country-to-country; accurately counting and representing victims; using photography as a tool to combat TIP; capturing and organizing data about perpetrators [across the sex trafficking exploitation chain] (traffickers, pimps and johns); unified legal oversight and prosecution across sovereign borders; and how technology can help service providers implement and share best practices.
Ross concluded the meeting by calling on the group to remain engaged and be opportunistic as ideas emerge. The State Department will consider the ideas presented and encourage further exploration. CCLP will continue to act as a convening agent to keep the group and other individuals connected in order to collaborate on these and other issues.
“The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. The OSCE is an ad hoc organization under the United Nations Charter, and is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.” In this 2004 report, OSCE examines National Referral Mechanisms – the informal network of governmental and NGO services for victims of human trafficking. http://www.osce.org/
http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2009/ This is the most comprehensive government report on trafficking in persons (TIP)/human trafficking/modern day slavery. The first 58 pages give a detailed overview of TIP including definitions and personal stories. The remainder of the report gives a country by country analysis/assessment of TIP. Essential reading for anyone interested in the subject. Published yearly. Secretary Clinton (June 16, 2009): “The ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report sheds light on the faces of modern-day slavery and on new facets of this global problem. The human trafficking phenomenon affects virtually every country, including the United States. In acknowledging America’s own struggle with modern-day slavery and slavery-related practices, we offer partnership. We call on every government to join us in working to build consensus and leverage resources to eliminate all forms of human trafficking.”
UPDATE: Secretary Clinton has released the 2010 TIP report. See: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2010/
Secretary Clinton (June 14, 2010): “The 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report outlines the continuing challenges across the globe, including in the United States. The Report, for the first time, includes a ranking of the United States based on the same standards to which we hold other countries. The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America. This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it.”