Posts Tagged ‘human trafficking’

Last week, several cases involving sex trafficking of minors were linked to websites used to promote prostitution. Is it time to shut these sites down, or would doing so run afoul of free speech protections?

If you’re unfamiliar with the crime of sex trafficking, check out the infographic below that provides some general information about victims and offenders.  And, to get the tech angle, take a look at this Wired magazine article that details the involvement of technology in trafficking.

Sex Trafficking in the UniteWhile the overall picture is sad and disgusting, the details of child sex trafficking are even more grim.

In one Georgia case, two teenage girls were arrested and charged with drugging and prostituting a 14-year-old girl, and they allegedly used an unnamed online service to advertise and set up meetings with customers (video).

In a Minnesota case, an 18-year-old woman was arrested and charged with the sex trafficking of a 16-year-old developmentally delayed girl.  The woman allegedly arranged for men to meet the girl through, a website that has long been associated with prostitution (video).

Despite the uses and abuses of sites like Backpage – and even in light of known child sex trafficking cases facilitated by the site – freedom of speech is still an issue. Some refer to efforts to close down the site simply as censorship driven by “moral panic” about sexual behavior.

Backpage has also won some court battles over laws that would have limited their business model, such as in Washington state where “U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez granted an injunction that halts a new state law that would require classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements.”

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This week’s videos focus on the scourge of human trafficking, which is “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” (Source: U.S. Department of State).

While hard and fast numbers are difficult to come by, due mainly to the secrecy involved in criminal enterprises like these, here are some stats:

  • Between 20-30 million people are forced to work as slaves worldwide
  • Hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked across international borders each year to work as forced laborers or in the sex trade
  • Up to 50,000 individuals are trafficked into the U.S. each year (National Institute of Justice – PDF)
  • Approximately 100,000 children are involved in sex trafficking in the U.S. each year
  • Approximately 250,000 kids are at risk for entering the sex trade in the U.S. each year
  • Human trafficking generates over 32 billion dollars in illicit funds for criminal individuals and organizations annually

In other words, modern day slavery is alive and well around the world.

Background on human trafficking

Despite the enormous challenges involved, governments and individuals are taking action to combat all forms of human trafficking.  One innovative organization that’s battling domestic sex trafficking in the U.S. is Truckers Against Trafficking.  According to their website, this organization

recognizes that members of the trucking industry and individual truckers are invaluable in the fight against [human trafficking]. As the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways, you are in a unique position to make a difference and close loopholes to traffickers who seek to exploit our transportation system for their personal gain. This site has been created to inform truckers and other travelers of the basic issues involved in human trafficking and a summary of ways you can help. We invite you to travel through this website and learn how you can join this worthy cause and save lives.

Their educational mission is carried out in part through the below video, which describes the extent of the trafficking problem and how truckers can help identify individuals who are recruiting victims or otherwise engaging in behavior related to human trafficking.

Truckers Against Trafficking training video

If you see what you think might be recruiting or trafficking behavior, take action. Call your local police, the FBI, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 and report it.

Have a safe weekend.