By: Andrea Martone
Sexual abuse, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation are occurring virtually, and explicit sexual-oriented photos and videos are sold on many internet platforms to customers worldwide. The result is a sordid multibillion-dollar industry that continues to grow and padding pockets for all traffickers at no additional cost.
Indeed, modern technology has fueled the ability of predators to recruit children and teens in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago.
Selah Freedom asks readers to join the United Nation’s recognition on Saturday, July 30th as is World Day Against Human Trafficking in Persons. This year’s theme couldn’t be more timely: “Abuse and use of Technology,” focusing on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking.
The internet has been a blessing and a curse. For many, it’s a positive, vast resource for every topic in the world and an invaluable connection to others, albeit virtually. As a result, daily tasks and activities that once necessitated in-person interaction – from banking, consumer shopping, seeking romance, and healthcare, have become commonplace, especially in the era of Covid-19.
But there is a deep and dangerous dark side to all of these technological advances. As the world has become more tech-savvy, so have human traffickers.
The internet and digital platforms offer traffickers many tools to advertise, stalk, recruit, and ultimately exploit, going so far as to transport and provide accommodations for their victims. This recruiting process has increased with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity.
Tragically, the crime of human trafficking has conquered cyberspace. Moreover, new technology allows these predators and criminals to operate internationally across jurisdictions and evade detection with greater ease. The use of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube) and messaging services enable traffickers to coerce the victims morally; online platforms allow traffickers to widely advertise services provided by victims, including pornographic child photographic material.
It’s not even safe for kids in their homes! Smart technologies in the house have introduced significant security risks, especially when home Wi-Fi hubs and portals are not protected sufficiently with firewalls, VPNs, passwords, and other security practices. Moreover, an insecure smart home system is an invitation to would-be traffickers, allowing them to access one’s personal information, eavesdrop on conversations in the home and monitor intimate family activities. This invasion can even allow predators to enter your home without your knowledge — and when traffickers gain such access to you or someone you love, the risk of child abduction skyrockets.
Fighting Fire with Fire
While technology plays a large role in the Dark Web, law enforcement and government officials are increasingly harnessing the power of these same tools to protect victims, capture predators and traffickers, and end this corrupt regime.
For example, international, national, and state law enforcement can connect and share real-time information with their counterparts in every corner of the globe using advanced technological methods. These methods make it easier to trace the trackers no matter where they lurk to dismantle trafficking networks.
The same dirty tactics used by traffickers online are now being turned against the traffickers themselves, as law enforcement forces infiltrate the deep, dark web to monitor, identify, and intercede in their nefarious activities.
Similarly, law enforcement can use the internet to spot and profile suspected predators and traffickers by posing as attractive targets. If a trafficker takes the bait, it often brings down an entire network with them.
What is the takeaway from this blog posting? No one wants to imagine that human trafficking could threaten their safety or the safety of someone they love. The hard truth, though, is that the practice is far closer and far more common than many of us dare to imagine.
Modern technologies have sustained and expanded trafficking networks for far too long. Today, however, these same tools are proving to be a powerful weapon against them.
Selah Freedom is playing its role in using modern technology to help raise awareness and educate children, youth and parents through their Sex, Lies, & Media training. The training helps those to be educated on the online recruitment tactics of predators and equipped with practical ways to discuss this issue, protect themselves online, and be a part of the solution.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact us or contact the Human Trafficking Hotline
Selah Freedom Hotline: 1- 888-FREE-ME
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
Sources: UN News, 2021, and Crime Report – a nonprofit multimedia information and networking resource based at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Published daily online.