Human Trafficking: Popular and Pervasive

April 18, 2019

Sex trafficking is one of the greatest crimes in the world. Sex trafficking is one of the crimes facilitated by digital environments, but the same technology the bad actors use for their crimes is always being used to catch them. USA Today shares how the technology is used to put an end to sex trafficking in the article, “Technological Tricks Can Help End Sex Trafficking: Former IBM Vice President.”

In January 2019, the US Institute Against Human Trafficking launched the Reach Out Campaign in Tampa, Florida. The program used web scraping technology to gather phone numbers of Web sites selling sex in Tampa. It was discovered that most of the numbers linked to cell phones of people sold for sex so they could communicate and book appointments with their “clients.” Reach Out gathered over 10,000 numbers and a mass text was sent out to the numbers with information to leave the sex industry.

The Reach Out Campaign received a 13 percent response. The program needs to be launched across the country in order to assist more sex trafficking victims, who deal with complicated psychological issues. AI bots called Intercept Bots are deployed to create fake sex ads on the Internet, then when someone responds it collects the user’s information. The bot will then share that it is a lure and that the user’s information will potentially be given to law enforcement. While it is important to assist the victims, it is also helpful to address the perpetrators, generally men, and prevent them from committing the crimes in the first place:

It is important, however, that we not just focus on punishing those engaged in buying sex. Many of these men suffer from sex addictions that can be treated. This is why the Intercept Bots program also sends potential sex buyers information on where to get this help. A study in the medical journal Neuro  psycho pharmacology estimates that between 3-6 percent of Americans suffer from compulsive sexual behavior. And studies estimate that the percentage of American men who have engaged in commercial sex at least once is 15 to 20 percent; compared to their peers, these men think about sex more often.

Thee are also ad campaigns targeted at people buying sex share the consequences of getting caught buying sex.

Combating trafficking is difficult, but spreading information and using technology to catch bad actors saves victims from further abuse.

Whitney Grace, April 18, 2019

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