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Briefing paper on the use of technology to combat trafficking in human beings

Executive summary

 

The purpose of this briefing paper is to provide a snapshot of the array of existing and developing technologies that can be used in the different stages of the fight against trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Each of these tools are described and their effectiveness assessed after an explanation of how they are implemented.

Following the introduction that briefly outlines the general project objectives and the methodology used, the paper presents the MTV Exit campaign (section 2), an awareness-raising campaign whose purpose is to reach the widest audience possible. Unfortunately, despite the efforts deployed in such campaigns, people still get caught in the nets of traffickers. Identification tools are therefore still very much needed. The following sections present various identification tools that can be used for different purposes. In this regard, various kinds of instruments that involve different types of stakeholders exist.

 

One category of stakeholders includes the professionals working on human trafficking, such as NGO workers and the law enforcement authorities. Because of the means that traffickers now employ, these specialists need to use tools to identify potential victims and/or traffickers that are at least as innovative and effective as the ones the traffickers use. The next sections thus outline cutting-edge technological tools (to be) used by these professionals, such as blockchain (section 3), PhotoDNA (section 4) and an automated technique for clustering sex advertisement that builds on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and bitcoin (section 5).

 

The paper then moves on to present crowdsourced identification and reporting tools. These include the STOPP APP, developed by the Stop The Traffiknetwork (section 6), and the Crime Stoppers platforms (i.e. the “Police – Security and Trust” application developed by the Ministry of Interior of Croatia, or the “Meld Misdaad Anoniem” online platform in the Netherlands) (section 7).

 

The last instrument presented is the hotlines/helplines (section 8). Although they can be used for reporting and identification purposes, they are rather aimed at outreach. They leave room for the victims or the persons close to them to initiate the outreach process and provide assistance upon request.

 

The paper then concludes by stressing the need to carefully select the tools according to the goal to be achieved, simultaneously taking the recipients of the tool and their different needs into account for an optimal result. Similarly, the multiplication of tools can also be potentially considered to enhance the sought impact. However, these instruments can only be accompanying measures, and cannot, alone, provide a solution to a very complex problem that requires a holistic approach.

 

Author:

 

VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL

 

Contributing partners:

 

FLIGHT

TILBURG UNIVERSITY

UPPSALA UNIVERSITY

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