• Latest News

    The State Of Women Trafficking Today

    History has bear witness in to the heinous and inhuman practice of trafficking women and children who are sold into slavery, prostitution and labor. However, this illegal practice of transporting, transferring, recruiting and ultimately selling women as if they are goods have continued to persist even in this era of globalization and technological advancements. What seemed to be an improvement in the modern age has actually proven to be an additional advantage for organizations that are trafficking into and within nation. Nowadays, human traffickers have even established their own stations or recruitment groups in the more impoverished countries in the world.
    Just like in the earlier years, women who come from less developed countries still makeup the majority of the victims in this human trade. According to the US State Department, approximately 640,000 women are being transported illegally into the United States every year, majority of which are being sold as sex slaves, while the rest are forced into labor. Women coming from Asian, African and South American countries, where the literacy rate is still lower than the rest of the world, are constantly recruited in the guise of “better, high-paying jobs.” Once hey arrive in the country, though, they are already stripped off their possessions and are coerced into prostitutions.

    Although these countries have been dubbed as “nurseries” for human traffickers, trafficking is actually not very far from home. Only recently, the government has discovered that this inhumane conduct is actually being practiced within the United States. It is estimated that around 325,000 American minors are actually in the potential risk of being sexually exploited. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released reports stating 47,472 American girls who have been caught in 2006 were identified as runaways. Studies indicate that there is actually a high risk for these girls to be coerced into prostitution, given that they are unprotected by adults. In certain cities within United States bear proof of this claim. In San Francisco, 96% of women who are prostituted ran away from their homes, while in Boston and Chicago the percentage also seems significant at 72% and 56% respectively.

    According to researches, sex traffickers normally approach adolescents who seem to just have recently run away from home. It is during these periods that minors appear lost, unguarded and vulnerable and traffickers are going in for the kill. They recognize the weaknesses that these young escapees have such as the lack funds, place to sleep in, or even the skills to get a job, making it easier for traffickers to manipulate them.

    Today, a lot of organizations are already formed globally and within the country in order to address this prevailing issue. National organizations such as the Polaris Project and international organizations like the United Nations Office and Crimes are teaming up with authorities on different cities and countries in order to provide a solution to this long-standing problem. The US Department of Justice also provides assistance to victims of the crime. For adult women who have been forced, intimidated and transferred in the country for purposes of sex or labor trafficking, they can approach the US Department of Human Health Services for assistance. Minors who are survivors of trafficking are eligible to receive benefits from the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program.
    Although there are existing laws concerning human trafficking, there are still no major studies which provide the perfect solution to prevent this type of crime. Being a victim of human trafficking is a traumatic experience, and that is why the government and some NGOs provide promising programs in order to assist them in their recovery process.

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  • Latest News

    Ivanka Trump: Ending Human Trafficking a Top White House Priority

    The Trump administration will make combating human trafficking a priority, Ivanka Trump said on Tuesday, as the U.S. downgrades China’s ranking for not doing more to stop trafficking.

    “The stories of those we honor today demonstrate why combatting this crime here in the United States as well as around the world, is in both our moral and strategic interests,” Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, said at a ceremony at the State Department for the unveiling of its annual human trafficking report. She was joined by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

    The congressionally mandated 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report provides a glimpse at how the Trump administration will promote human rights abroad. The report has served as a diplomatic tool for many as the U.S. engages with foreign governments to end human trafficking.

    “Ending human trafficking is a major foreign policy priority of the Trump administration,” Ivanka Trump said.

    The report places countries in three tiers. Tier 3, the lowest ranking, includes countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and are not making notable efforts to do so.

    China was downgraded to the Tier 3 category, Tillerson noted.

    “[China] has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking,” Tillerson said.

    Tillerson cited China’s inaction in cracking down on North Korean forced labor as an important part of the country’s downgrade.

    “The North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the fruits of forced labor,” Tillerson said.

    China joins Russia and Syria as several other countries in the Tier 3 category.

    Controversy surrounded a part of report that lists countries who have used child soldiers. The 2017 report dropped Iraq and Burma, also known as Myanmar, from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List. Reuters reported Saturday that Tillerson had overruled State Department officials who recommended the two countries stay and that Afghanistan be added to the list. The 2017 list does not include Afghanistan.

    Human rights advocates slammed the 2017 report, questioning its objectivity.

    “Congress should be asking tough questions about the State Department’s questionable decisions to upgrade several countries with poor records on trafficking,” said John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch.

    However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) praised the report.

    “This year’s report is a step forward in efforts to improve the transparency and integrity of the rankings,” Corker said in a Tuesday statement. “I appreciate the Trump administration for its sincere commitment to tackling this massive problem.”

  • Latest News

    AI Tool Helps Law Enforcement Find Victims of Human Trafficking

    Emily Kennedy was a rather sheltered teenager when she first learned about sex trafficking. She was 16 on a trip to Macedonia, and she couldn’t quite understand the desperation with which children were cleaning the car she was in when they had stopped at a stoplight. “My friend said the kids were trafficked by the Russian mob, and if they don’t bring home enough money each day, they will be punished,” Kennedy said on stage Friday at the Women in the World event, an annual live journalism event held in New York City.

    She kept chewing on the problem studying humanities at Carnegie Mellon University. She thought she might go to law school. But then, as she was working on her senior thesis (Kennedy graduated in 2012), she connected with a few machine learning experts and engineers at the university who had designed technology to solve a number of other complex issues, such as “epidemic detection and food safety,” Kennedy tells me.

    It was the right recipe for a collaboration that could change how victims of human trafficking were found. “I think my passion pitching this idea coupled with their excitement about the idea… and following up with my persistence to just sometimes bang my head against a wall to try to figure out how can we use these existing software to make something new,” Kennedy says. “How can we use online data to fight human trafficking?”

    The software is called Traffic Jam. It works by trawling online advertisements for sex, a subset of which are victims of human trafficking. A surprising number of those contain photos, Kennedy notes. Using Amazon Web Services’ facial recognition (it worked better than other facial recognition software Kennedy had tried, plus “what’s the point of reinventing the wheel?” she says), Traffic Jam can match a suspected victim’s photo from a missing person ad or social media, and see if the victim’s face appears in any ads (and despite recent legislation that shut down Backpage.com, one of the biggest sites for sex work, Kennedy knows it’s only a matter of time until human traffickers find a new place to post their ads). It’s critical to do this quickly, because traffickers move victims from city to city to avoid detection and capture.

    It’s exactly the kind of problem in which technology works best — rapidly rifling through thousands of ads is too much for humans to process, so tech comes in to make sense of it.

    And the data, Kennedy notes, is messy. Her company, Marinus Analytics, has been gathering online ads since 2011, which helps detectives analyze characteristic misspellings in the ads to narrow down which posts may include human trafficking victims. And Marinus now has other image processes tools like image similarity search, “where a detective can basically upload a photo of a victim procured in a hotel room and see other photos of victims pictured in the same hotel,” Kennedy states. So if traffickers keep coming to the same hotel, or even the same room, the software can point that out.

    Since Kennedy started the company in 2014, she’s brokered partnerships with law enforcement officials around the country, prosecutors’ offices, and a few nonprofits (she’s careful with who Marinus partners with, because she realizes the software is powerful and could be abused in the wrong hands). It has an 88 percent success rate; data from Traffic Jam has already led to the rescue of hundreds of victims of human trafficking in the U.S. and Canada.

    A secondary effect of Traffic Jam’s success? Changing what we know about sex trafficking in the first place. “I think [the statistics] are really important because we have to be clear about how big the problem is. I think we have to be careful about how we quantify things and how we back that up,” Kennedy says.

    And despite a few attempts to set the record straight, statistics about human trafficking have mostly been way off. “A lot of the statistics that are used commonly by the media are from old studies, studies that even the researchers themselves have said, ‘You shouldn’t use this statistic because now it’s old,’” Kennedy says. Data from her software has debunked the idea that more victims of human trafficking are taken during events like the Super Bowl  “we found that there were other events, some of which had more statistically significant increases in activity than the Super Bowl,” gatherings such as CES, the Oracle conference, and the Daytona 500, Kennedy says.

    Kennedy, now 27, is looking for other ways Traffic Jam can make a difference. The software is now crawling data from 18 countries, she says, and the company will soon expand to the United Kingdom and, soon, beyond. And she and her team are looking into applying it to other types of predictive policing, such as the sale of guns and illegal drugs.

     

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  • Latest News

    Backpage has Always Claimed it Doesn’t Control Sex-Related Ads



    From left: Backpage.com chief executive Carl Ferrer, co-founder James Larkin, chief operating officer Andrew Padilla and co-founder Michael Lacey are sworn in on Capitol Hill on Jan. 10 before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing into Backpage.com’s alleged facilitation of online sex trafficking. All invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. (Cliff Owen/AP)

    A contractor for the controversial classifieds website Backpage.com has been aggressively soliciting and creating sex-related ads, despite Backpage’s repeated insistence that it had no role in the content of ads posted on its site, according to a trove of newly discovered documents.

    The documents show that Backpage hired a company in the Philippines to lure advertisers — and customers seeking sex — from sites run by its competitors. The spreadsheets, emails, audio files and employee manuals were revealed in an unrelated legal dispute and provided to The Washington Post.

    Workers in the Philippine call center scoured the Internet for newly listed sex ads, then contacted the people who posted them and offered a free ad on Backpage.com, the documents show. The contractor’s workers even created each new ad so it could be activated with one click.

    Workers also created phony sex ads, offering to “Let a young babe show you the way” or “Little angel seeks daddy,” adding photos of barely clad women and explicit sex patter, the documents show. The workers posted the ads on competitors’ websites. Then, when a potential customer expressed interest, an email directed that person to Backpage.com, where they would find authentic ads, spreadsheets used to track the process show.

    For years, Backpage executives have adamantly denied claims made by members of Congress, state attorneys general, law enforcement and sex-abuse victims that the site has facilitated prostitution and child sex trafficking. Backpage argues it is a passive carrier of “third-party content” and has no control of sex-related ads posted by pimps, prostitutes and even organized trafficking rings. The company contends it removes clearly illegal ads and refers violators to the police.

    The discovery could be a turning point in the years-long campaign by anti-human trafficking groups, and Congress, to persuade Backpage to stop hosting prostitution ads, which many teenage girls have claimed were used to sell them for sexual exploitation. Lawsuits and criminal prosecutions of Backpage in the United States have nearly all failed because Backpage cites in its defense the federal Communication Decency Act, which grants immunity to websites that merely host or screen content posted by others.

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  • Latest News

    House Passes Anti-Sex Trafficking bill

     Websites could be held liable for enabling sex traffickers under a bill passed by the House on Tuesday, a major setback for Silicon Valley firms that opposed legislation they believe could threaten a wide array of internet companies which allow users to post their own content.

    The measure passed by a vote of 388 to 25. It now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill already enjoys broad bipartisan support.

    The legislation would allow state attorneys general and victims to sue websites that “knowingly” facilitate sex trafficking. It’s targeted at sites like Backpage.com, the subject of a long-running Senate investigation, which was accused of hosting ads that promoted the trafficking of minors.

    But parts of the internet industry believe the measure creates a dangerous precedent that could open up internet companies like Google and Twitter to a litany of lawsuits and potential criminal liability for content posted on their platforms.

    “We will be sending a clear message: Businesses that sell human beings online can no longer do so with impunity,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), a sponsor of the House bill.

    The House vote represents the first tangible outcome of the so-called techlash, the growing bipartisan criticism of the tech industry and its expansive power over people’s lives. Facebook, Twitter and Google have faced intense scrutiny in recent months over their role in Russian election meddling, the spread of online conspiracy theories, and addiction to social media.

    Silicon Valley and its lobbyists have managed to tamp down most of the regulation talk, but they haven’t been able to slow the momentum of the anti-sex trafficking legislation, which has deep support on both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers are motivated by frustration with sites like Backpage.com, as well as the stories of victims who’ve been canvassing the Hill with emotionally charged tales of abuse.

    “We are thrilled that the House and its leadership heard the voices of children and survivors from across the country, all of whom have been fighting for this bill,” said Mary Mazzio, director of the sex trafficking documentary “I am Jane Doe.”

    The House bill is poised for a relatively smooth ride in the Senate. It was amended Monday to incorporate language from a Senate measure, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act which is already backed by 67 senators.

    The legislation alters Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from lawsuits over user-generated content. Tech groups portrayed the provision as a sacred tenet of the internet, helping give rise to the free flow of communication online.

    But those arguments proved difficult to make without appearing soft on sex trafficking. Ultimately, tech associations and companies split under the pressure. The Internet Association and Facebook, one of its prominent members, publicly voiced support. Engine, the Consumer Technology Association and NetChoice, among others, stood opposed. Non-internet tech companies, including Oracle, IBM, 21st Century Fox and Disney, also supported the legislation.

    Now that the legislation is gaining traction, tech groups say they’re determined to make sure Congress and the courts do not further erode laws that protect the internet industry.

    Carl Szabo, general counsel for NetChoice, said the trade group hopes “the law is not abused to undermine things like user-generated content or small businesses that have no interest in and are actually fighting sex trafficking.” The Internet Association said Tuesday it “will defend against attempts to weaken these crucial protections.”

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