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).
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.
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.
Michael Bak at USAID leads the innovative MTV EXIT initiative in SE and South Asia. With the reach of MTV and the rising popularity of global music culture in Asia generally, this campaign is a powerful tool for awareness raising.
“The MTV EXIT campaign in Asia and the Pacific is produced in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development….The MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign is an award-winning multimedia initiative to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking and exploitation. MTV EXIT was launched in Europe in 2004, in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, and expanded across Asia with USAID in 2007. MTV EXIT has produced many MTV documentaries and other programming on trafficking, including Traffic: An MTV EXIT Special, presented by Lucy Liu; Inhuman Traffic, presented by Angelina Jolie; over a dozen localized language versions presented by Asian celebrities; short films; public service announcements; and animation. MTV EXIT and Radiohead collaborated on an anti-exploitation video for their song All I Need, which premiered across MTV’s global network in 2008. MTV EXIT has also established partnerships with over 100 non-governmental organizations, distributed hundreds of thousands of anti-trafficking brochures in over 25 languages, and reached out to millions of young people through anti-trafficking messages at concerts and music festivals featuring R.E.M., Radiohead, The White Stripes, The Hives, Thievery Corporation, Placebo and hundreds of other international & local artists. For more information see www.mtvexit.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.”