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Trafficking and the Tech Industry
November 7, 2019

We’ve written before about the rising influence of and risk in social media with children like our students, who might use it to find friends, and end up coming across potential traffickers and other exploiters. And we’ve written about online sexual exploitation in America, and laws like SESTA meant to address it. shows

If it weren’t bad enough that the sexual act is being sold in exploitative ways online, this article, “Human Traffickers Are Literally Selling Slaves on Instagram” shows a team from BBC News uncovering people being sold on social media apps as domestic workers – not just their services, but themselves, as individuals.

The Failures of the Tech Industry

Again, and again, these major tech companies are failing to address these things happening on their platforms. They say in their policies that there is no tolerance for it – but Zuckerberg’s testimony is emblematic of the tech industry’s ambivalence when it comes to policing content.

And should they? Is it their responsibility to? How do they when their reach is so vast? What standards should they apply, and does their power to enforce those standards begin to encroach on the rights and privacy of average users?

We Cannot Wait

It is clear that the tech industry which provides us with the tools to connect, but also the means for exploitation, cannot–and perhaps will not, and may be even has reasons it should not–be trusted to keep its platforms clean and safe.

It’s a worthy debate, the role social media technology can and should play…

…but in the meantime, people are being exploited right now.

So What Can We Do?

We can invest in prevention. We can try to build a world where people are less vulnerable to these traps – where economic stresses are not so desperate that people put themselves at such risk, where children know how to spot a potential exploiter online and how to avoid them, where families know about the risk of trafficking and exploitation and how to avoid risky situations.

We do this by:

  • making education accessible to everyone, so every child has a chance to graduate and have access to legal, above-board, sustainable job opportunities
  • raising awareness about human trafficking, what the risks are, and how to avoid potentially exploitative situations
  • and committing ourselves, as citizens of the world, to being vigilant about the scenarios we engage in, whether while traveling, or where we buy our clothing and food, or when we get massages or hire domestic help, so that we can be sensitive about whether we are contributing to a world that is clean and safe for everyone.


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