Vatican Address to Highlight Bitcoin Use in Slave Trade

The Vatican is soon to host an address on how bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being used in the modern-day slave trade.

To be held today at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) in the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, the talk by Bank of Montreal senior manager Joseph Mari is to provide an overview of the role cryptocurrencies play in money laundering, while highlighting the potential of blockchain to help the unbanked.

The second of a three-day long event, itself part of an even larger effort led by Pope Francis to eradicate slavery entirely by 2020, the address is expected to be given to an audience including the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and other senior church leaders.

Since the Pope was named the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, he has made slavery a top priority of the church, helping inspire the recent PASS efforts, according to an internal document provided to CoinDesk.

In addition to today’s address on blockchain, the group has held other workshops, seminars and plenary meetings culminating in the organization’s “core” recommendation to resettle slaves where they are found, if they so choose, rather than repatriate them.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with CoinDesk, Mari detailed the purpose of his particular address, and the potential bigger picture role it could play in fighting against what the International Labour Organization estimates is a $150 billion
 forced labor industry.

Mari said of the audience:

“Blockchain and cryptocurrency needs to be on their radar, it needs to be recognized as something that is current, is being utilized and the quicker the learning curve is surmounted, the quicker we can start working towards the risks that are presented.”

Mass education

The day’s proceedings are scheduled to kick off with the celebration of mass by H.E. Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who is also the bishop of Argentina and chancellor of PASS.

Following chancellor Sorondo’s blessing at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, Mari is scheduled to present the most recent results of Project Protect, founded two years ago to teach AML officers how to identify patterns in their own transactions that might be evidence of human trafficking.

To read the full story by Michael del Castillo on Coin Desk: Click Here

UN Migration Agency, Polaris to Launch Global Data Repository on Human Trafficking

Vienna – Counter-trafficking specialists yesterday (05/09) announced the pre-launch of the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) at the 5th Global Compact for Migration (GCM) consultations in Vienna. The CTDC is the result of a joint initiative led by IOM, the UN Migration Agency and Polaris, an independent organization combating modern slavery. Its online portal will consist of a global repository of data on human trafficking that protects the identities of victims, and uses a new international standard.

The announcement took place at a parallel event during the GCM consultations. At the pre-launch, IOM stressed the important role of the CTDC to fill the gap in terms of publicly available data on human trafficking. Harry Cook, IOM Data Management and Research Specialist stressed that the lack of data on human trafficking and the hurdles to collect it in a harmonized manner are two main problems for the counter-trafficking movement.

The CTDC will be the first global repository of its kind and will host primary data from counter-trafficking organizations around the world, helping deepen the understanding of vulnerability-producing contexts that migrants encounter during their migration process.

“We all want counter trafficking efforts to be as effective and efficient as possible, and in order to do that, they need to be based on real information about the problem,” said Sara Crowe, Polaris’ Associate Director in charge of data systems.

The CTDC will combine datasets including over 45,000 victim records from IOM and more than 31,000 cases of human trafficking from Polaris. Global data from other organizations is expected to enrich the current repository, which will facilitate an unparalleled level of cross border, trans-agency analysis and provide the counter-trafficking movement with a comprehensive understanding of the issue.

To read the full story on International Organization For Migration: Click Here

UC Berkeley Graduate Student Fights Human Trafficking Through Algorithms

Rebecca Portnoff, a doctoral candidate in the UC Berkeley School of Engineering, developed two algorithms aimed to scan through online sex advertisements and find human trafficking circles.

Portnoff presented her dissertation findings Wednesday at KDD 2017, a data science conference in Canada. The algorithms look through sex advertisements on Backpage, an online classified advertisements site, to find human traffickers, according to Portnoff. There is a difference, she added, between sex advertisements that are consensual and those that are related to human trafficking.

“This idea of being able to group together ads by their true owner — the underlying issue is that we would like to help law enforcement prioritize their focus,” Portnoff said. “They want to focus on people who do not choose and who are being forcibly trafficked.

She worked with four other researchers to write a paper about these algorithms, including professor Damon McCoy at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. McCoy said the first algorithm links advertisements to a single writer using stylometry, which is the study of people’s writing styles.

To read the full story by Malini Ramaiyer on The Daily Californian: Click Here

Student Hackers To Help Manhattan DA Fight Human Trafficking; They’ll Focus On Workers With Little To No Wages

It’s the coding answer to community service.

Students from Cornell and Columbia universities will be hacking for a good cause over the weekend through a program with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Response Unit.

Specialized prosecutors and staff assigned to the unit will guide technology students in a hackathon as they experiment with ways to bring human trafficking to light, with the goal of identifying criminal activity in the dark corners of the web. Hackathons bring programmers together to work on all kinds of projects.

In recent memory, prosecutors have brought cases against pimps with the aid of massive troves of electronic evidence.

They are often able to connect the dots between a pimp and victims — or to a larger network of trafficked people.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. spoke to students at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Friday morning, putting their challenge in a courtroom context.

In recent years, Vance’s office and other law enforcement agencies have begun treating prostitutes as victims as they are often essentially brainwashed and dependent on psychologically and physically abusive pimps.

“We understand now how difficult it is for trafficking victims to separate from the person who is trafficking them,” Vance said.

To read the full story by Shayna Jacobs at The NY Daily News: Click Here