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  • Geebo 9:30 am on June 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Global Emancipation Network, , Human trafficking   

    Are online vigilantes needed to fight human trafficking? 

    Are online vigilantes needed to fight human trafficking?

    In fiction, vigilantes are a very entertaining subject. From movies like Boondock Saints to characters like Batman, fictional vigilantes bring justice to those who think they’re above the law. However, historically vigilantes in the real world have been nothing more than lynch mobs looking to further their own agenda. Much like their historical counterparts, online vigilantes tend to be virtual lynch mobs who more often than not target the wrong person as the victim of their ire and end up hurting innocent people in the process. One of the more infamous examples of that was when a Reddit group identified the wrong man as the Boston Marathon bomber. However, one group of white hat hackers are using their technical expertise to fight against human trafficking.

    The Global Emancipation Network is far from a group of ragtag hackers united by a common goal. It was founded by a computer scientist whose resume includes stints with the US Department of Defense, Microsoft, and NASA. The GEN collects information from all over the internet and the dark web in order to share this data with law enforcement agencies all over the world.

    As GEN points out, many law enforcement agencies from around the world either can not or will not devote the necessary resources needed to effectively fight human trafficking. GEN hopes to fill that gap with the information they collect. While it’s a harsh reality, it’s a shame that their services are needed in the first place. However, it’s refreshing to see such a well-organized volunteer community doing the dirty work that needs to be done to help rescue the millions of victims of human trafficking in all of its forms.

     
  • Geebo 9:13 am on June 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human trafficking,   

    WA offers resources to trafficking victims 

    WA offers resources to trafficking victims

    One of the problems with human trafficking is that often the victims don’t know where to turn to get help. Too often they’re treated like criminals along with the pimps and traffickers who sell them. So even when they find themselves at police stations, victims don’t know where to turn to get help. Now, the state of Washington is hoping to correct that problem in their state.

    Washington has always been at the forefront of trying to prevent human trafficking and to help its victims. Unfortunately, the Seattle-Tacoma area has long been a hotbed of human trafficking activity. Recently, the Washington State Government has unveiled a new website that looks to assist victims of human trafficking with getting out from under their traffickers. At WATraffickingHelp.Org trafficking victims can find a list of resources ranging from shelter to legal services to healthcare services and more.

    Just because Backpage is gone, doesn’t mean that trafficking magically disappears even though that was a major step in fighting it. Sadly, not as many states are as proactive in helping victims like Washington is. Hopefully, Washington’s initiative to help victims get their life back will spark other states to do the same.

     
  • Geebo 9:15 am on June 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking, ,   

    Backpage lawsuit against Cook County Sheriff dismissed 

    Backpage lawsuit against Cook County Sheriff dismissed

    Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart oversees law enforcement in the second most populous county in the country. He has long been an outspoken opponent of the website formerly known as Backpage. Not only did he dedicate a large part of his career to help rescue victims of Backpage’s trafficking, he also often took to the media to try to inform the public about how much of a menace Backpage actually was. Sheriff Dart was obviously relieved when Backpage was finally shuttered.

    One of Sheriff Dart’s more controversial acts against Backpage happened in 2015 when Sheriff Dart wrote to both MasterCard and VISA requesting they stop letting Backpage use their cards as forms of payment for Backpage’s adult ads. The problem with this is Sheriff Dart did not write to these companies as a private citizen but instead as the Cook County Sheriff by using official county letterhead. Backpage saw this as a violation of their right to free speech and a government intrusion. A lawsuit was then filed against Dart by Backpage and an injunction was placed on Sheriff Dart stating he could no longer contact the credit card companies. However, the damage had already been done as the two companies ceased doing business with Backpage. Many consider this decision by VISA and MasterCard as the beginning of the end for Backpage.

    Now, with Backpage being seized by the Federal Government and former CEO Carl Ferrer admitting that Backpage was well aware of its role in human trafficking, the lawsuit against Sheriff Dart has been dismissed. This past Thursday, a federal judge dismissed the suit with Sheriff Dart claiming that the dismissal contained a “certain level of vindication”. While we may not have always agreed with Sheriff Dart’s way of doing things, we’re happy to see that Backpage won’t be able to claim a victory over this tireless defender of the people.

     
  • Geebo 8:54 am on June 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Emily Kennedy, Facesearch, Human trafficking, Marinus Analytics, , Traffic Jam   

    Facial recognition being used to help stop trafficking 

    Facial recognition being used to help stop trafficking

    Previously, we posted about how Amazon’s facial recognition software, called Rekognition, is being sold to police departments around the country. Many civil liberty groups have protested the police use of the software as they feel it is ripe for abuse. However, like many tools, one person’s abuse can be another person’s salvation. One startup is using the Rekognition software to help rescue victims of human trafficking.

    Marinus Analytics is a startup that was founded by CEO Emily Kennedy that develops tools to help stop human trafficking. While attending Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Kenedy developed a program called Traffic Jam that uses artificial intelligence to help identify trafficking victims. What once could take a police investigator days to do, Traffic Jam could do in a fraction of that time. More recently, Marinus Analytics added a feature called Facesearch to Traffic Jam which is based on the Rekognition software. Facesearch allows police to use a photograph of a trafficking victim or missing person to the Traffic Jam database in order to help locate the victim. It’s the science of fantastical TV crime dramas come to life.

    Ms. Kennedy has even said with the federal seizure of Backpage, Traffic Jam will continue to adapt to new online sources. We commend Ms. Kennedy for her dedication and innovation in the fight against human trafficking and we’ll add that it’s refreshing to see a startup try to accomplish real change in the world rather than trying to cash in on whatever the latest social trend is.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human trafficking,   

    Is there a new site trying to usurp Backpage’s trafficking throne? 

    Is there a new site trying to usurp Backpage's trafficking throne?

    Recently, one of New York’s less than trustworthy and more opinionated newspapers ran an article claiming online sex trafficking hasn’t changed since the federal seizure of Backpage. The article claims an ‘unnamed source’ within the NYPD saying there has been no slow down since Backpage was shuttered. This newspaper seems to be one of the outlets that believe the ‘consenting adult’ myth as they quote a john who said that prostitution should be legal since gambling and marijuana are legal in some places. The problem with that analogy is marijuana and casino chips aren’t being repeatedly sold against their will.

    However, the article then goes on to not only mention a new website but links to the new site as well that is supposedly the sleazy heir apparent to Backpage. We’re not going to link to the article, the website, or mention the website by name, but the site looks like it’s trying to copy Backpage even right down to its site design. The ads on this new site seem to be even more blatant than the usually coded ads that appeared on Backpage. This new site also has the usual disclaimer that ads related to human trafficking will not be tolerated asking ad posters to click on a button that says ‘I agree’. They’re even trying to be more shifty than Backpage was. In my research, I was unable to find any information regarding who owns the new platform. Their social media presence is almost non-existent, however, I was able to find some information that the site does business in Texas although reports say the website itself is allegedly hosted in Canada.

    While the New York tabloids may be decrying that online sex trafficking has continued unabated since the closure of Backpage, it’s still too early to really tell. It’s only been less than two months since Backpage was seized so it’s still too early to say that it’s business as usual. At its height, Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking in the US by most reports and had the financial backing of a media company. In today’s post-FOSTA world it will be almost impossible for a website to be as lucrative as Backpage was at its zenith.

    The online sex trafficking trade has been severely splintered. While it may continue to exist it will never be at the level it was when Backpage was running things. This is a good thing despite protests to the contrary as it causes fewer victims to be trafficked against their will. While the fight against online human trafficking is a constant battle, there will be fewer casualties in the future.

     
  • Geebo 9:05 am on May 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 13th Amendment, , , Florida Abolitionist, Human trafficking,   

    Anti-trafficking group uses new approach to sue Backpage 

    Anti-trafficking group uses new approach to sue Backpage

    Backpage has been no stranger to lawsuits in its controversial history. In the past, many of its lawsuits have been dismissed due to protections afforded them by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which stated that a website was not responsible for third-party content posted by a user. Even with the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) being passed into law and the criminal charges being filed against Backpage, a lawsuit win against Backpage still isn’t a slam dunk. However, an anti-trafficking group from Florida is trying a new tactic in an attempt to ensure judicial success against the website.

    In one of their arguments, Florida Abolitionist is claiming that Backpage violated the 13th Amendment rights of the women FA is representing by allowing them to be trafficked on Backpage’s listings. For those of you who may not be familiar with the 13th Amendment, it’s the Amendment that was supposed to end slavery in the United States. The text of the Amendment states…

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    While the 13th Amendment was designed to end slavery in the wake of the Civil War, the Amendment has rarely been used to show a violation of rights has been committed. With Former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer recently admitting that Backpage was complicit in the practice of sex trafficking, maybe we’ll see a new landmark case where the 13th Amendment is instrumental in addressing the future rights of trafficking victims.

     
  • Geebo 9:09 am on May 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Digital Sin City, Human trafficking, , study, university of minnesota   

    Study: Craigslist caused a surge in human trafficking 

    Study: Craigslist caused a surge in human trafficking

    Ever since craigslist stopped hosting adult ads, and even more since the seizure of Backpage, a number of people have said without these sites it will be more difficult for law enforcement to find and rescue the victims of human trafficking. However, because of sites like craigslist and Backpage human trafficking increased in whatever market these sites entered. That is according to a new joint study published by both the University of Minnesota and New York University.

    According to the study entitled “The Digital Sin City: An Empirical Study of Craigslist’s Impact on Prostitution Trends”, researchers found that in a period between 1999 to 2008, anytime craigslist entered a community, prostitution and human trafficking activity would increase. While the study said this included ‘consensual’ sex workers it also noted that craigslist led to a greater criminal exploitation of human trafficking victims. The study even mentions that the outdated section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1999 is what kept this exploitation going.

    Sites like craigslist and Backpage cannot be both the cause of and solution to human trafficking simultaneously. At some point, the line has to be drawn to keep future victims from being bought and sold into sexual slavery. While some traffickers may be forced underground laws like FOSTA will cause a massive drop in online trafficking since women and children will no longer be able to be peddled in such a blatant manner.

     
  • Geebo 10:01 am on May 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: dating, , Human trafficking,   

    Amid scandals Facebook to offer dating service 

    Amid scandals Facebook to offer dating service

    After dealing with foreign meddlers, privacy breaches, data leaks and congressional hearings, Facebook is introducing a new feature that will undoubtedly allay the fears of Facebook users. During Facebook’s annual developer conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will soon have its own dating feature which I’m sure will not be abused in any way. That’s sarcasm in case anyone was wondering.

    Of course, the most foremost concern in privacy. On that front, Facebook does not have the best reputation. Another concern is engagement as Facebook continues to try to keep users inside their walled garden by trying to be all things to all people. This is just another way for Facebook to keep its hooks in its users by incorporating yet another service into its platform. Facebook is desperately trying to be your only internet experience where no other site and apps are needed.

    My greatest fear, however, is that the proposed dating service will become the new online haven for human trafficking, taking over the void left by the seizure of Backpage. After craigslist got rid of their adult services section, the ads for prostitution moved to the personals section. The same thing happened with Backpage when they claimed that they shut down their adult section due to ‘censorship’. Before FOSTA was even passed, craigslist took it upon themselves to remove their personals due to the fear they might run into legal trouble with adult ads still littering their personals. Now that the social network with billions of users is planning its own dating feature, one can’t help but think that history may be repeating itself.

     
  • Geebo 9:22 am on April 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human trafficking, ,   

    Leading Backpage opponent wants lawsuit dropped 

    Leading Backpage opponent wants lawsuit dropped

    Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart

    Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart was one of the leading voices in the fight against Backpage. Not only did Sheriff Dart do everything within his power to combat the human trafficking committed through Backpage by conducting various stings and rescue operations, but he also stepped outside of his job to convince credit card companies to stop accepting payments for Backpage ads. While it wasn’t a deathblow for Backpage, it did hurt them where it mattered most, in the wallet. Backpage fought back against Dart by filing a lawsuit over lost profits due to Dart’s interference and had a restraining order placed against him which prevented Dart from further contacting the credit card companies.

    Now, with the federal seizure of Backpage, Sheriff Dart is asking that the lawsuit against him be dismissed. Dart is now arguing that since Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has admitted that Backpage was predicated on human trafficking and money laundering this should render Backpage’s lawsuit against Dart null and void. Dart himself called the lawsuit a fraud and that it was not based in fact or law.

    While some of Sheriff Dart’s tactics can be considered questionable, the closure of Backpage could not have been done without him. Because of his constant vocal opposition to Backpage in the country’s second most populous county, the Backpage situation may never have received the media attention it did and we would still probably be trying to make people more aware of the problem. Sheriff Dart should be commended for his work against Backpage trafficking and this suit should be dropped immediately since it came to light that Backpage was complicit in the sex trade all along.

     
  • Geebo 10:07 am on April 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human trafficking,   

    Are traffickers targeting your kids through social media? 

    Are traffickers targeting your kids through social media?

    When an a news article or blog post asks a question in the headline the answer is usually no. However, with this blog post the answer is actually yes, but with more context then these type of articles would normally give. Recently, the tabloid-ish New York Post recently ran an article entitled “Sex traffickers are using social media to target children.” The Post article seems to imply that with Backpage’s closure, pimps and traffickers are turning to social media to recruit new victims. While I’m sure that there has been an increase in traffickers turning to social media, this is nothing new.

    Pimps and traffickers have been targeting children on social media since at least the days of MySpace. More recently, traffickers troll apps like Instagram and Snapchat in order to approach potential new victims. Usually these culprits promise their victims lives of wealth. Sometimes they’ll tell their victims that they could be models or singers, or they’ll approach their victims romantically then proclaim to be their boyfriend when they’ve told other victims the same thing.

    So what can parents do to prevent their kids from falling under the control of a pimp? One of the best thing to do is monitor your child’s social media accounts. Question any comment or message left by someone that you think is inappropriate. If your child can’t identify someone on their friends list as someone they know in real life then that friend probably doesn’t need to be on their friends list. You may also want to consider holding on to your child’s devices at bedtime, this way no one can be messaging your kids at night away from the eyes of parents.

    The most important thing you can do is talk to your children and let them know that there are people online who are looking to take advantage of them and how they can recognize the signs. In most cases, all it takes is a little parental diligence to keep your kids from ending up in the hands of these modern-day slave traders.

     
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