Written by: Rebecca Sadwick and Sarah Godoy
For many, the term “human trafficking” evokes images of perversions hidden in illicit underground markets of developing nations. Ironically, the demand of developed nations like the United States drive the illicit markets domestically and overseas, and hundreds of thousands of domestic and foreign-born adults and children are at risk of being sex trafficked within the United States each year. The demand for commercial sex acts with minors is not diminishing; rather, preferences for younger and younger boys and girls is pervasive.
Advancements made in the rapidly-evolving tech sector hold consequences and applications for both traffickers and those working to counter trafficking alike. Technology has historically been used to the detriment of victims; traffickers use social media, websites, and anonymizing apps and networks to contact and recruit their victims (often through deceptive or coercive messages), post online advertisements of the services that can be purchased from their victims, and communicate easily and anonymously with buyers and conspirators within their trafficking rings.
Technological advancements also provide unprecedented opportunities for law enforcement and service providers to monitor illicit activity, locate and rescue victims, collect and analyze data leading to the prosecution of traffickers, and streamline communication between anti-trafficking actors and agencies.
Some of the most salient technological advances augmenting the work of those fighting slavery include:
January 11th is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. One of the best parts about today is celebrating the small steps and large leaps we have made in prevention, disruption, prosecution of traffickers and sex buyers, decriminalization of victims, and rehabilitation for survivors. The diligent work of countless individuals, organizations, task forces, and the like deserve to be recognized for all of their efforts—from the lives they have assisted (and continue to assist) in recovering to the policies they have influenced and implemented.
Most importantly, today is focused on raising the public consciousness about the grave acts of labor and commercial sexual exploitation within this country and around the world. Those in this movement encourage the general public to question the social norms that reinforce the victimization of vulnerable and marginalized populations (e.g. child welfare and juvenile justice systems involved, migrants, etc.). Victims of human trafficking often fall through the cracks of multiple systems but this movement has been built on the strength of community members who have band together to stop the world’s fast growing crime.
The Internet makes joining the movement to end modern slavery easier than ever. We can keep our communities safe with these important tips:
This article was originally posted in Forbes.