Using Technology to Combat Child Trafficking: Tech Solutions for Lasting Impact
Technology plays a crucial role in the propagation of trafficking crimes today. But did you know that the same technology that traffickers use to spread crime can also be used to combat trafficking? Some child traffickers use basic mediums Facebook and fake job adverts to lure in their victims, while some traffickers use advanced tools like GPS to track and monitor their victims’ movements.
The good news is that several concerned organizations, including nonprofits like Thorn, are working ambitiously to make the technology safer for children. This typically involves identifying content uploaded by users online for child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), the removal of such materials, and reporting them accordingly. The immediate impact of this is reducing the volume of CSAM available on the internet.
This is clearly an ambitious goal, but it is also an achievable one. Thankfully, aside from Thorn’s Safer tool, there are many more tech tools already out there, designed to help individuals and organizations combat child trafficking (including but not limited to sex trafficking, forced labor, and forced marriage).
Counter-Trafficking Top 40 Tech Against Child Trafficking
In May 2019, the Center for Mind and Culture (CMAC) released a white paper titled Counter-Trafficking Top 40: Tools Against Child Trafficking, which is a comprehensive compilation of 40 different tech tools aimed at combating the child trafficking industry. Of these 40 tools, 20 are accessible to the public. The other 20 were built for nonprofits, private businesses, or government and law enforcement. Generally, these tools are categorized into 5 different groups, as discussed below.
Considering the global nature of child trafficking, these tools incorporate capabilities that allow for effective use in almost any part of the world.
Image recognition is a sophisticated technology rapidly transforming how law enforcement fights sex trafficking. The technology consists of an AI that scans and scrapes the internet for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) using a very high level of speed and accuracy. Thorn uses this technology to help law enforcement identify victims of trafficking. The Marinus Analytics tool, Traffic Jam, also uses image recognition technology to scan the internet, matching photos of trafficking victims with that of missing children in sex ads. With user-generated databases, individuals can also join the fight against trafficking.
Creating more awareness is undoubtedly another way of improving the foothold of anti-trafficking campaigns in the country and everywhere else around the world. Technology has been introduced to make this even easier to create awareness. Tools like BAN Human Trafficking and (Un)Trafficked have choose-your-own-adventure gaming apps that allow players to go through scenarios that teach them the signs of human trafficking. These apps, VRs, and games also include resources and information on appropriate legal actions in such situations.
When people identify sex trafficking, they should know what to do. Thankfully, some of the technologies profiled by CMAC include websites, applications, and tools that make it easy for people to report trafficking cases. In this category are apps like NAPTIP for trafficking in Nigeria and the United States’ CyberTipline for reporting suspicious activity or child trafficking situations. This provides law enforcement with insight into ongoing cases.
In combatting child sex trafficking and forced labor, data collection and analysis play crucial roles. In this case, global data hubs rely on user-uploaded information and data gathered from the internet to assist frontline officers and organizations combating trafficking in different regions of the world. A robust database like the United Nations’ Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative receives data from about 200 countries. Data sent to this database include information about traffickers, offenders, wages, children rescued, stakeholders, high-risk areas, and so on.
This network uses geographic-specific information on tens of thousands of trafficking cases to analyze common forms of trafficking by region, age, and gender of victims, and the strategies used by traffickers to adopt victims.
Deep Learning and AI
Many organizations have explored the potentials of artificial intelligence in fighting crime, and one good way to put that to use is in pushing back the growth and impact of human trafficking. From foraying deep into the dark web, organizations like Seattle Against Slavery and Hyperion Gray are targeting and developing solutions capable of deterring, delaying, and gathering data on possible buyers and websites that promote trafficking.
These include mapping chatbots simulating victims and designed to gather information on buyers, mapping, and clustering dark websites. Rebecca Portnoff, who was a doctoral student at the University of California-Berkeley, developed a technology that stops child sexual abuse on the dark web. The technology uses an algorithm that traces traffickers and victims by identifying non-consensual sex ads, then linking similar writing styles across a multitude of ads, and uncovering bitcoin transactions.
In general, these tools enable law enforcement, government agencies, nonprofits, and even individuals to select appropriate tools that improve their anti-trafficking campaigns and strategies.
About the Mission Haven
The Mission Haven is a nonprofit, charity-funded organization focused on providing a comprehensive and transformational Haven of Healing for victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. We believe that every single DMST or child sex trafficking survivor still has a chance at life at its best.
Our goal at The Mission Haven is to provide them with all the support they need to start over. With your generous donations and support, we can continue to provide a truly safe haven of hope and healing equipped with essential resources to lift victims and survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. To give, volunteer, or become a partner, feel free to contact us today.