Technology's Role in Aiding and Combatting Human Trafficking

Image credit: Pxhere

Technology has been a great tool in combatting human trafficking. At the same time, technology has aided human traffickers. There is good use in technology, but unfortunately, there are those who will abuse this power. There is no way to avoid how technology impacts society. Technology isn't going away, so it's up to use to not only use technology to our advantage in combatting human trafficking but understand how technology helps human trafficking thrive. 

What do you think of when you hear the word "technology?" Social media, the Internet, GPS, emails, online advertising. We can find clothes at a reasonable price online, or get our lunch delivered when we don't have the time to go and pick it up. How does this tie into human trafficking? As stated by the author in an article featured on Social Media Collective, "Technology makes many aspects of human trafficking more visible and more traceable, for better and for worse."

Technology provides human traffickers incredulous ways to continue their crimes without detection. Billions of people use the Internet, online advertising, and social media. Traffickers can advertise through online ads on the Internet to sell their victims. A trafficker could also use websites to trick someone with a false job or promise, then exploit that individual. Some of these include live chats, which provides traffickers to perfect opportunity to contact individuals to get their personal information, giving them even more power over their soon-to-be victim. You can reach a myriad of people through the Internet. Traffickers can also use other aspects of technology to aid them in their crimes. GPS is often used to track victims' locations. Traffickers can hack (or have someone hack) security cameras to know where their victim is or use cameras/microphones to communicate with a victim.

The greatest use of technology for human traffickers would be recruitment. For the past decade or so, traffickers have used technology (i.e. social media, the Internet) to recruit victims. Alexandra Gelber, the Deputy Chief for Policy and Legislation at the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice, shared how online recruitment works in the United States. "Data shows that in the United States approximately 40% of sex trafficking victims are recruited online, making the Internet the most common place where victim recruitment takes place," Gelber says. As I've stated numerous times, social media is integral in traffickers' success. A trafficker can find numerous victims through a few searches on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook. In 2020, Facebook alone was responsible for 59% of online recruitment in active victims' cases. To make matters worse, 65% of child sex trafficking recruitment that took place online came from Facebook. What child do you know uses Facebook? It's terrifying to consider how they're reaching our youth.

Thanks to technology's advancement globally, people can pay for sexual services online from another country. We are witnessing how child trafficking has gone online. Predators and traffickers can molest or abuse children, while viewers pay for these "services." 

There's also the discussion of how pornographic websites allow CSAM and CSE (in addition to human trafficking). One of PornHub's most popular channels, GirlsDoPorn, was found guilty of trafficking young women. Pornography has a direct line to fueling human trafficking. Traffickers understand the revenue by manipulating or threatening their victims into "performing." If someone is forced, coerced, or manipulated into doing these acts, that is human trafficking. There is no way to know how many videos include human trafficking or performers of legal age. There is no way to know if the performer in that video wants to be there. The porn industry receives more visits than Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon combined

Pornography is also a tool traffickers use to groom their victims. By normalizing these acts found in pornography, from incest to BDSM, victims will be more likely to go along with what is asked of them. In an interview with acclaimed porn star, Nina Hartley, interviewer Benji Nolot asked Nina how she cannot be concerned with the message her recent film normalized. What was the movie in question about? A mother's sexual relationship with her daughter. You could see Nina was thrown off, and while she claimed she wouldn't do another incest-themed film, she went ahead and made another. There is no ethical line with pornography. As Joshua Broome stated, "There is no NO list. NO means not yet." 

With all I have described with how technology aids human trafficking, it's hard to see the bright side. Have hope! There are positives to technology in combatting human trafficking. For one, social media has been a great tool in exposing the truth of human trafficking. I love watching educational videos on human trafficking on Instagram or making Reels on human trafficking myself. Education and awareness are key in bringing light to this dark subject. You've also got resource centers, like the National Human Trafficking Hotline or Cyber Tipline, that you can report human trafficking to. There are apps and websites you can use to fight human trafficking. 

With regards to technology, this is an advantage, I thoroughly believe, where Gen Z can step up. Most of my generation uses social media to share our messages. I believe the same should be done with human trafficking. Traffickers can adapt to technological advances, but that doesn't mean we can't. 

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