what is human trafficking ?
With the world advancing and the increase in the number of younger children active on social media platforms or the virtual space has led to an increase in crime. The crime that is on the rise is virtual sexual harassment and trafficking. Children make up roughly 20% of all trafficking victims globally. This raises the concern regarding how to safeguard the young population and to spread awareness about the same. Awareness plays an important role when it comes to combatting Human trafficking, especially in the case of children. This is because children with a presence online can become an easy target for human traffickers because of the lack of knowledge that they possess about the adversaries of the cyber world. Therefore, it becomes important to spread awareness about this because only then an individual can become vigilant of predators online.
In the virtual space, sexual abuse and other sorts of exploitation are occurring, and images and videos of victims are being sold to consumers all around the world on various platforms, making even more money for the traffickers at no further effort. This is due to the fact that these victims are being sought out on social media and online dating sites, where users’ personal information and geographic coordinates are easily accessible. Now it is difficult for parents to just condemn their children for using social media, considering the significant number of peers that use social media platforms. Therefore, it becomes necessary to make children accustomed to the safe and secure ways of using social media platforms. With the large presence of children online, it has not just become easy for human traffickers to find their prey but it has also become very easy for these criminals to track their victim. Currently, traffickers use technology to identify, track down, seduce, and profit from their victims. They also use the Internet, particularly the dark web, to conceal their identity from authorities and unlawful materials resulting from human trafficking.
how cyber enabled human trafficking makes the matter worse ?
Since conventional physical and geographic barriers no longer exist, the Internet today easily connects a far bigger number of prospective victims. This eradication of barriers in the virtual space creates a free space for traffickers and the buyers to carry out deals. For example, human traffickers accept cryptocurrency as their payments. Cryptocurrencies are also used to launder the illegal gains from this extremely lucrative crime, which makes it simpler for traffickers to receive, conceal, and move enormous sums of money with less danger of being discovered. This indicates towards the fact how the cyber platforms have made not just tracking victims easy but has also made the business of human trafficking quite lucrative. For example, to increase their clientele it is seen that traffickers construct phoney websites or place ads on social networking and job-related websites that are authentic. Live broadcasting on several websites allows for the repeated exploitation of victims, and there is no restriction on the number of times or individuals who may see films of their mistreatment.
The prevalence of human trafficking around the globe and the misuse of technology makes it increasingly challenging for law enforcement to combat this crime. Traffickers may observe their victims and their surroundings by using smartphones’ cameras during video conversations and location-tracking programmes to determine the victim’s whereabouts and the location of their surroundings. Threats from traffickers to show personal images or videos of their victims to relatives and friends as punishment for disobeying their requests are another way that traffickers keep control over their victims.
measures for prevention
Now the question may rise, how can we protect children from becoming victims of human trafficking in virtual space? The following are some ways parents and adults can prevent their children from becoming victims of the heinous crime of human trafficking.
- Tell your kids how simple it is to build a bogus or fake social media presence. A lone trafficker or a vast criminal network searching for new victims to mistreat and exploit may be hiding behind a false profile. This will make them vigilant about the fact that they should not just trust anyone online.
- Inform your kids about the dangers of interacting with strangers online. One of the reasons that traffickers may initially contact potential victims on open social media groups before moving communication to encrypted or anonymous services, such as WhatsApp messaging on mobile phones, is that they are aware of the risk of monitoring and surveillance when using technology.
- Establish trust with your kids. There should never be a breach of their privacy (sneaking into their accounts or mailboxes in their absence). Building trust is crucial, especially when children need to be escorted or ask questions about persons or suspicious behaviour to prevent child trafficking.
- Talk to your kids about the value of not taking and sharing pictures and videos with strangers. This because very often traffickers use the threat to distribute pictures of the individual to make them subject to human trafficking. Traffickers might utilise them to keep the victims under control also.
- The visibility of your content can be controlled with the use of good privacy settings. You can block others from seeing your posts, images, or videos in this way. Traffickers appear to have mastered the subtleties of fusing coercive control methods with digital technology. They can evaluate their victims’ eligibility for a modelling or sexual career by sharing images and videos of them. Therefore, it becomes important for not just children but any young adult to be mindful of what they post and who can see their content.
Increase in digitalization has brought in high efficiency and great merits to society. But we also need to acknowledge the demerits and the dark side of the highly digital world. This acknowledgment and recognition is necessary in order to understand the intricacies of the grave matter which will facilitate the understanding as to how we can tackle the problem. The matter of human trafficking in general is a matter of utmost concern but the element of child trafficking should also be taken up seriously. This is because children are vulnerable to it more than ever in this heavily digital world and protecting them is important since they are the future of nations around the globe.
Author – Ms. Eeshita Patiyal, Intern, CyberPeace Foundation
Reviewed – Mr. Abhishek Singh, Research Associate, CyberPeace Foundation