Modern Day Slavery [blog #1]

1/31/2017

International Studies – Blog #1

In 1865 slavery was officially ended, and freedom was granted to all. Or so we thought. Today a different kind of slavery exists and it’s plaguing nearly every country in the world. The human trafficking industry has exploded since the inception of the world wide web and with the help of social networking sites, it’s luring in a frightening number of victims. Somewhere between 12 and 27 million to be exact. Among the dozens of definitions, human trafficking can be described as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act … both across and within state and international borders.” This industry knows no distance and is willing to go the extra mile to build their trade.

Social networking sites have an array of consequences, including global connectivity and information sharing. In many cases these sites provide an incredible platform to reach people without being hindered by distance. In other cases, such as the human trafficking industry, this outcome is a nightmare. Agencies will use sites, such as Facebook, to reach out to victims, build their trust, and con them into working for them. They’ll often show them love and care, and even build a sense of safety and security. Other times, agencies will post job ads or provide a ‘way out’ of the victim’s current situation. But that’s not all. A web analysis found over 5,000 questionable websites linked to trafficking people into the sex industry. Once the offender has ensnared a victim, they use threats and physical punishment to make it impossible for the victim to escape.

Unfortunately, the internet is used for much more than just recruitment. Once forced into labor, victims are advertised on these websites and their services are sold. A simple click of a button can send out a message to people hundreds, even thousands, of miles away and “pimps” have used this capability to build a much larger clientele. In New York City, a report found that 23% of teenagers “said the internet was an increasingly popular option to meet customers, and 11% of the teens used the popular website Craigslist to meet prospective ‘dates.’”

I find this topic to not only be relevant internationally, but highly understated in importance and urgency. I’m especially interested in exploring it further, because the statistics are staggering and once learned, impossible to ignore. In 2016, Pew Research Center reported that 86% of adults age 18-29 use at least one form of social media, which surpassed all other age groups. Further, Technology and Human Trafficking reported that 27% of trafficking cases involved the use of the internet. Correlation does not mean causation, but without doing any further research it’s clear that my age group is at high risk for being victims of sex trafficking recruitment.

On the flip side, the internet has become a tool to help human trafficking activists and police departments in stopping the recruitment and exploitation of innocent victims. One tactic the police force uses is setting up stings. They’ll pose as someone interested in an ad they suspect to be put out by a pimp or trafficking agency, set up a meeting, and arrest the perpetrator at the intended meeting location. Police departments have also been able to use frequently used GPS locations to track regular customers. In addition to law enforcement, activists have been a huge and quick moving source of rescue. One method they use in stopping the trafficking of people is something called ‘crowdsourcing.’ Activists will keep an eye out for fishy ads, and when they suspect a victim has been scammed and is in danger they will send out a mass message reaching all around the country or world. Activists in the location of the original ad will then call the trafficking hotline and work together to stop the victims from moving any further. Without the internet it would be impossible for activists to have such far reaching, fast moving results that have the potential to save many lives.

 

Sources:

Dixon, Herbert B., Jr. “Human Trafficking and the Internet.” The Judge’s Journal 52.1 (2013): n. pag.American Bar Association. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Latonero, Mark. “Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds.”SSRN Electronic Journal (2011): n. pag. Web.

 

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