Using Technology to Prevent Trafficking

ICJW was one of the co-sponsors of a side-event at CSW62 at the UN in New York on March 14, 2018, organized by the Committee to Stop Trafficking In Persons, entitled: “Technology as a Tool to Prevent Trafficking in Women & Girls”

ICJW representatives at CSW62 – Rita Fishman, Madeleine Brecher, Fran Butensky, Judy Mintz, Vivien Brand and Susie Ivany – attended the event. The panel, representing organizations, technology companies, and a prosecutor from the District Attorney’s office, shared the challenges facing them in their work to disrupt human trafficking and the tremendous effort it takes to stay ahead of the traffickers who, too, use  technology to their benefit.

  • Moderator—Lauren Hersh—World Without Exploitation
  • Laura Edndin—Brooklyn District Attorney Human Trafficking Unit
  • Sara Gardner—THORN—Digital Defenders of Children
  • Akiba Saeedi—IBM Director of i2 Intelligence Analysis
  • Staca Shehan—National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

So far the traffickers are winning. Working with technology created by THORN and IBM i2 Intelligence Analysis and Facebook panelists shared their stories. Some highlights of the important conversation engaged in by this panel helps us to understand some of the issues we face in disrupting human trafficking:

  • The use of Backpage and Facebook by traffickers is very difficult to track.
  • Traffickers are using VPN (virtual private network) to share information.
  • Kids are recruited on line and controlled on line.
  • The Dark Web gives anonymity on the web — now the bad actors use Bitcoin to cover their tracks hiding where the money is going.
  • Kids are forced to write their own ad—in that way the trafficker is kept out of legal jeopardy
  • Thorn is focused on building the tools to find trapped children. They identified 18,000 victims in 12 months. Using Spotlight they are able to assist investigators so that they no longer feel they are looking for a “needle in a haystack”.
  • IBM i2 Intelligence Analysis turns disparate data into actionable intelligence in support of disrupting criminal activity, together, the Center for Intelligence Led Prevention run by Stop the Traffik has had success identifying hot spots around the globe sharing what they learn with financial institutions, law enforcement, NGO’s and communities to disrupt trafficking.
  • Facebook has partnered with STT, in reaching out to vulnerable communities, and has identified, through the IBM i2 program, those vulnerable communities. At risk communities download the Stop App and are engaged in conversation educating themselves to the dangers around them.
  • Facebook ran a campaign on “sextortion” joined with Thorn to reach out to teenagers. 1600 responses in two days from panicked children concerned that naked photos of them taken by  a disgruntled boyfriend would appear on line. Some cases have resulted in suicide.

In conclusion—as we see, technology can be used to disrupt this human rights violation. Perseverance, partnerships, sharing information are essential if we are to get ahead of the traffickers. As communities join together to that goal, there is hope that we will see a switch in the struggle to become the winners and successfully disrupt human trafficking.

Reported by Rita Fishman, ICJW representative on CSTIP