by Sarah Godoy, Forbes, January 10, 2017
January 11th marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an opportunity for community members to show support for trafficking victims and survivors through simple acts–like wearing blue and sharing #WearBlueDay on social media–or fully immersing themselves in the anti-trafficking movement, and everything in between.
The exploitation of women, men, and children for forced labor and sexual acts has permeated the global community unlike ever before. The Internet paradoxically creates both new opportunities for traffickers to exploit vulnerable people around the world, and a platform to identify traffickers in the multi-billion dollar industry.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign–a public-private partnership in its seventh year–reminds us that the private sector and communities together can identify, report, and counter human trafficking. Neither governmental nor nonprofit entities can end labor or sex trafficking without private-sector support.
Tech-based public-private partnerships (often called “3Ps”) have advanced many social impact initiatives—including combating the nationwide commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and young adults.
Recent 3Ps have led to groundbreaking tools to identify and counter human trafficking. Google, for example, has invested millions of dollars in sponsorships, donations, and employee time for projects seeking to curtail sexual exploitation of children via the Internet.
There are numerous examples of effective partnerships that have resulted in technological tools aiding local and national efforts. For example, the private company Bashpole Software, Inc., with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), developed idTraffickers to locate victims using biometrics technologies (including facial recognition) to compare images of missing persons against images from human trafficking databases and “escort” ads on the Internet. The information is generated into intelligence reports that provide law enforcement with the evidence needed to rescue victims and track perpetrators.
Similarly, NORC at the University of Chicago, the independent research institution formerly known as the National Opinion Research Center, developed STOP (Sex Trafficking Operations Portal), centralizing intelligence that helps law enforcement identify and prosecute sex-trafficking networks. Developed in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Fusion Centers, and with funding from the National Institute of Justice, STOP retrieves and organizes online “escort” ads through automated data mining and converts that data into actionable intelligence.
While both of these tools are highly regarded, their overlapping functionalities highlight the need for more streamlined communication and unified partnerships to increase the efficacy and scalability of available tools.
Public awareness of and involvement in 3Ps make them more effective in combating modern-day slavery. No previous experience or specific skills are necessary to participate, as the anti-human trafficking field needs individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets.
4 Ways to Contribute:
Know the landscape. Research available resources and current partnerships to identify gaps avoid the replication of existing projects.
Join efforts, don’t fragment the cause. Share your unique expertise or make donations to existing projects like the ones listed above. Your efforts can sustain and advance projects and tools across the anti-human trafficking movement.
Break down barriers, build communities. Be open to developing bipartisan and multi-disciplinary teams and sharing relevant data. Collaboration yields consistently better outcomes than siloed efforts.
Share your thoughts below. Is there a cause or project that you think the community should know about? Share it in the comments below to promote awareness and involvement.