#OnlineTrafficking101: Buying off the Streets is so Passé

Ashley Wickerham & Jared S. Rose | September 11 | 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM | Room 2582

Now more than ever, human sex trafficking is being facilitated online. In fact, “technology has become the single greatest facilitator of the commercial sex trade” (Shared Hope International, 2012, p. 5). To have any kind of impact for individual survivor/victims and social justice issues surrounding human trafficking, anti-trafficking efforts must re-conceptualize the image of women and girls walking the streets at night looking for customers, to what is flashing across computer screens. Sites such as Craigslist, Backpage, a plethora of “hook-up” sites, and yes even Facebook and Twitter, are used to recruit and sell sex trafficking victims. It is not the case that all online sex work is a situation of trafficking; however, research reveals it is overwhelmingly situations of trafficking (Hughes, 2002; Latonero, 2011; Thorn, 2014). This is especially true of minor sex trafficking, not only because of youth social media use which puts them at risk of being trafficked, but also because the location of the underage victim can be kept secret more easily by advertising online. A recent study conducted by Thorn (2014) demonstrates this with the discovery that up to 70% of child trafficking survivor/victims are sold online. The use of the Internet provides traffickers with even more anonymity (of themselves and their victims), as well as the ability to sell and re-sell the same individual more frequently than through any other location (e.g. on the street). Consequently, it becomes more challenging to identity and prosecute the traffickers, as well as to find the victims and assist in their progress to survivor.

This presentation will bring to light a critical awareness element of online sex trafficking. This will be accomplished by reviewing examples directly from active websites, a list of websites and sales tactics frequently used by traffickers, and essential research surrounding this method of selling survivor/victims. Prevention recommendations will also be provided, with special emphasis given to youth risk factors associated with online trafficking recruitment. Finally, practical suggestions for social justice on this issue will be addressed.

About the Presenters