THE INTERSECTION OF SEX TRAFFICKING AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

KatieBlawie-167-WebBy Katie Blawie, Intern in the SNDatUN Office

The 2015 Trafficking In Persons Report defines human trafficking as the “act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” In many areas of the world, sex trafficking is the most common form of trafficking in persons, followed by labor trafficking and organ trafficking.

As technology continues to advance, trafficking offenders are finding new, creative ways to expand their businesses. They are now using the Internet to recruit victims and reach larger audiences, and this strategy will only continue to spread as technology improves globally.

Emily Kennedy, a young woman with a passion for combating human trafficking, realized that law enforcement agencies aren’t taking advantage of this trend. While studying at Carnegie Mellon University, Kennedy developed a software program called Traffic Stop. This program scans and analyzes publicly available online data to reveal hidden patterns. By grouping similar posts together using artificial intelligence tools, the program can provide important clues such as the location of offenders and victims, or the relationships between the many people involved. So far, her innovative software has helped rescue over 120 victims of sex trafficking in the US.

sex-trafficking-program-body-image-1444934749

Kennedy speaking at an event. Photo by Erika Gidley.

While this software has been adopted only by law enforcement agencies within the US, it has the potential to spread much farther. The United Nations has already made significant progress with preventing trafficking in persons, protecting victims of human trafficking, and prosecuting trafficking offenders (through the Palermo Protocol). But there is always more to be done. The UN should take advantage of these advances in technology and learn from the work Emily Kennedy has done at the intersection of human trafficking and digital technology. I hope the UN will do research into this trend, and possibly even bring Ms. Kennedy in to speak and share her knowledge with an international audience.

For More Information:
www.marinusanalytics.com/trafficjam/

broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/the-young-woman-who-created-a-new-way-to-bust-sex-trafficking-rings

2015 Trafficking in Persons Report – www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf

 

One Response

  1. It’s wonderful to know of Ms. Emily Kennedy’s wonderful work to stop trafficking! The chamber will be filled if Ms. Kennedy is invited to speak at the UN! Thank you Katie and Sister Jean for sharing information about this important approach to combat trafficking.
    Dr. Maureen Byrnes, Seton Hall University-College of Nursing

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