This year’s theme focuses on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking.
With the global expansion in the use of technology - intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday life to online platforms -- the crime of human trafficking has conquered cyber space. The internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds – and all that with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity.
Moreover, technology allows these criminals to operate internationally across jurisdictions and evade detection with greater ease. Traffickers use social media to identify, groom and recruit victims, including children; e-mails and messaging services are used for the moral coercion of the victims; and online platforms allow traffickers to widely advertise services provided by victims, including child photographical material.
Crisis situations can also intensify this problem. Criminals profit from the chaos, desperation, and separation of people – particularly women and children - from support systems and family members.
For people on the move, online resources can become a trap, especially when it comes to phony travel arrangements and fake job offers targeting vulnerable groups.
However, in the use of technology also lies great opportunity. Future success in eradicating human trafficking will depend on how law enforcement, the criminal justice systems and others can leverage technology in their responses, including by aiding investigations to shed light on the modus operandi of trafficking networks;
enhancing prosecutions through digital evidence to alleviate the situation of victims in criminal proceedings; and providing support services to survivors. Prevention and awareness-raising activities on the safe use of the internet and social media could help mitigate the risk of people falling victim of trafficking online. Cooperation with the private sector is important to harness innovation and expertise for the development of sustainable technology-based solutions to support prevention and combating of human trafficking.