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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
USC

Mobile Phones New Way to Fight Sex Trafficking

New studies find that mobile technology will help monitor sex trafficking.

A USC Annenberg report revealed Tuesday that mobile phones and devices are now being used to traffic minors for commercial sex in the United States. They are among many digital channels like social networking sites and online classifieds that aid the exploitation of children.

The Rise of Mobile and the Diffusion of Technology-Facilitated Trafficking is the latest report by the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP). The report is a follow up to their pioneering 2011 report, Human Trafficking Online. It urges policymakers, business leaders, law enforcement, and social service providers to find solutions to technology-facilitated trafficking. The CCLP interviewed law enforcement officials and provided an analysis of mobile phone data.

"Increasingly, the business of human trafficking is taking place online and over mobile phones," explained CCLP Research Director Mark Latonero, Ph.D. "Mobile devices allow traffickers to expand their criminal networks in new ways. At the same time, these technologies can be used to target traffickers, reach vulnerable communities, and raise public awareness."

The report highlights the opportunity for technology companies and mobile carriers to collaborate with the anti-trafficking community to find solutions.

"Evidence-based research like this is vital in the fight against human trafficking, because it will open the door to innovative new approaches to combat the problem that would never before have been possible," said Samantha Doerr, Public Affairs Manager for Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit.

The report's recommendations include developing a strategy to address human trafficking occuring on multiple digital platforms including phones, training law enforcement and social service providers, and encouraging public officials to make human trafficking a more important subject for policy-making.

"This report reflects our center's commitment to the use of technology to improve society, and breaks new ground in the area of human trafficking," said CCLP Founder and Director Geoffrey Cowan. "We look forward to continuing to work with a wide range of colleagues to find new ways for technology, particularly mobile technology, to help, rather than to harm, society."

For more information about the USC Annenverg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, visit communicationleadership.usc.edu.

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