How can technology fight Human Trafficking?

When it comes to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, the rise of technology and social media use around the world has been both a blessing and a curse.

The theme of this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, is ‘Use and Abuse of Technology and its role as a tool to both enable and impede human trafficking.’

Due to its vast global reach, easy anonymity, and lack of accountability – the internet has become a Human Trafficker’s dream.

Thanks to the rise of digital platforms and wide availability of technology, there are now millions of people within easy reach of criminal gangs who use the web to find, move, and profit from vulnerable people.

Digital and social media platforms are used by traffickers to recruit people into exploitation by posting bogus job adverts or opportunities, or to obtain footage in which to blackmail them. Traffickers can also groom potential victims through befriending them on social media and earning their trust before abusing them.

The internet can also be used by criminals to communicate with potential clients, advertise the services/availability of victims, live-stream or upload footage of exploitation, and generally spread misery around the world.

However, despite its dangers, technology can also be at the forefront of fighting Human Trafficking. It is being used by law enforcement to investigate and disrupt trafficking gangs, digital evidence is being used to prosecute criminals in Modern Slavery cases, and technology is also being used to locate and rescue victims.

Social media and other digital platforms are being used to spread awareness of the issues of human trafficking, both in countries of origin and countries of destination, as well as to run campaigns of what to do if you suspect someone is a victim. Apps have also been developed that allow phone users to instantly report trafficking abuses.

Digital companies and governments around the world are now being urged to take the issue of cyber security seriously, and to take steps to implement laws that protect people online as they would be in the real world.

Protect yourself and your family online.

Prevention and awareness raising on the safe use of the internet and social media can help reduce the number of people falling for the scams and lies used by traffickers to trap victims into exploitation.

  • If social media accounts are public then anyone in the world can access your information and photos. Consider setting your accounts to private and turn off your location setting.
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know, and don’t engage in chat with strangers who may be working to build your trust.
  • Don’t post anything personal that you don’t want shared. Once a picture or message has been sent, you have no control over how it will be used. Exploiters have used personal pictures to blackmail victims.
  • Don’t share your phone number, address or live location online.
  • Beware of job adverts or opportunities that seem too good to be true. Traffickers often try and entice people with promises of high wages for simple work, modelling contracts, education etc, but are always vague on the details.
  • Report or flag any pages to the platform that seem suspicious.