The Internet’s Role in Human Trafficking


by Amanda Kloer

image13Here’s a pop quiz for you. Is the Internet a.) A series of tubes invented by Al Gore b.) an evil system of perversions with no redeeming qualities c.) one of the greatest facilitators of human trafficking in commercial sex markets or d.) all of the above?  If you chose c.), you’re right!  If you chose d.), perhaps you might want to do a little background reading. The Internet is a tool, and like all tools it can be used for good or bad.  And right now, the Internet is one of the largest facilitators of sex trafficking in the world.

Here are some common Internet technologies and how they are used to facilitate human trafficking in commercial sex:

  • Craigslist.org: Used to sell child and adult trafficking victims for commercial sex.  You may have noticed I’ve got about as much love for the adult services section of Craigslist as Taylor Swift’s mom has for Kanye right now, but that’s because they are a huge facilitator of illegal prostitution and the sale of children for sex all over the word.
  • Online photo sharing: Allows for mass dissemination of child pornography without having to worry about being caught by the nosy developer or mail carrier. Online picture catalogues help buyers choose a girl as an “escort” or sometimes even as a wife. Online ordering of women has revolutionized how some traffickers do business.
  • Mobile upload technology: Like photo sharing technology, mobile upload technology allows pimps and traffickers to conduct business on the road, sharing pictures and videos with perspective clients and making sure the girls they exploit are available 24/7.
  • Social networking sites: Allow people interested in exploiting women and children to connect with each other and with potential victims. Traffickers use social media to connect with both buyers and victims, and in some cases to connect them directly to each other.
  • Vast availability of porn websites: Pimps who sell children often use legal, adult pornography as a grooming technique. And I’m sure it’s a huge surprise that they have no problem finding plenty of it all over the Internet.
  • E-Commerce tools: Used to conduct the financial transactions of child pornography and of victims of human trafficking. Think someone would never charge sex with a child to their credit card via a website? Think again.
  • Encryption technology: Enables transactions, information trails, and conversations to be difficult to impossible to detect by law enforcement.

Fortunately, law enforcement agents have access to these same technologies and are using them in sting operations and to identify and prosecute pimps and traffickers. However, too often the criminals are several technological steps ahead. They see the exploitative potential of emerging technolgies before we do, a dynamic that must change. Because, while these tools revolutionized the business of exploitation once, it won’t be long until something new comes out and does it again. And this time, we want to good guys to be the tech-saavy ones.

Photo credit: dalbera

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One response to “The Internet’s Role in Human Trafficking

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