Tech is way to fight trafficking – U.S. actor-investor Kutcher

[Original Article: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trafficking-kutcher-idUSKBN15U2HE]

Author: Sebastien Malo

Publication Date: 15 February 2017


 

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NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hollywood actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher urged U.S. legislators on Wednesday to drum up government support for the development of new technology to fight online sex trafficking.

Kutcher’s comments to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee follows heightened scrutiny of classified advertising websites such as Backpage.com for carrying ads that offer children for commercial sex.

“Technology can be used to enable slavery, but it can also be used to disable slavery,” said Kutcher.

He spoke as chairman of Thorn, a tech non-profit that has produced web-based tools to help police officers identify and locate victims of trafficking.

The “Spotlight” tool, which Kutcher said has helped identify 6,000 victims in six months, was created after a 2012 sex trafficking survey found that 63 percent of underage victims reported being bought or sold online.

Kutcher, who is married to actress Mila Kunis and has two children, said becoming a parent had propelled his crusade against trafficking.

“The right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away, it’s raped, it’s abused, it’s taken by force, fraud or coercion – it is sold for the momentary happiness of another,” said the 39-year-old actor.

Each year, up to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice

Most sex trafficking victims are advertised or sold online, according to a U.S. Senate subcommittee report that was released last month.

Backpage.com was hit last week with the latest in a string of lawsuits that accuse the company of promoting sex trafficking by running and rewriting ads that offer children for commercial sex.


Further Remarks:

Statistics of Human/Sex Trafficking:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016

Equality Now: Sex Trafficking Fact Sheet

Thorn: Child Sex Trafficking Statistics

This article surfaces a damning issue that has wrecked the minds of international policy makers for decades: human trafficking. While human trafficking is illegal in most countries this black market industry is actually growing. Due to prevailing conflicts in the middle east, mass displacement and the Internet, trafficking has become easier and more prevalent. Yet, persecution rarely happens- this is mainly because traffickers are hard to catch and often victims are hidden in plain sight. They look like us, act like us, but they hide a secret far more sinister than anyone can imagine.

Human trafficking- and especially sex trafficking- disproportionately affects women and girls for obvious reasons. (However, global trends have shown that in recent years more men are falling victim to trafficking as well.) It is upsetting, to say in the least, to know that children are often the primary targets for human trafficking- and the fact that they are exploited for sex just makes it worse.

Often these children are fooled into being trafficked. Parents will sell their children to traffickers to promise to help them find education and a new life in a new land. What they do not know is that they have actually doomed their children to a life of misery and violence- but can we blame them? To an uneducated parent who wants the best for their child, it is understandable why they may be lured by these bountiful promises.

So what can we do? This article presents a unique perspective on how to combat child sex trafficking. Due to the advent of the Internet, much of child sex trafficking is facilitated by the dark web. Hence, Kutcher and his non-profit are developing technologies to weed out these sites and identify perpetrators. Technology can offer us new advantages to deal with this insidious problem- and it is my personal belief that we need to exploit this as much as possible.

But at the same time, governments must be willing to invest in these issues. Kutcher’s non-profit is admirable, but for significant impact to happen and for change to arrive as soon as possible to help these children, governments must be the ones to act. They must be the ones to develop this technology and lead this purge against human traffickers. Because they have the resources, they have the power and they have the expertise to do so. Furthermore, they have the influence to lead civic movements towards freeing these victims of human trafficking. That is why Kutcher has gone to the Senate- because he knows that for a significant impact to be made we need to engage with legislators. But then again, with a country to run can a government really afford to dedicate precious resources to

But then again, with a country to run can a government really afford to dedicate precious resources to such a specific cause? Many will say the nature of the warrants immediate intervention, but think about it practically will it happen? And if it does will it come soon enough?

Post By: Christine Ow

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