San Diego-Based Cyber Patrol Volunteers Educate Would-Be Johns About The Realities Of Human Trafficking

“You calling about the ad?” a man’s deep voice inquired of the caller who had just rung.
The man at the other end hesitated, maybe because he expected to hear a woman’s voice answer the call, then responded: “Yeah.”
The ad he was calling about had been posted on Backpage.com on a recent Friday night. It didn’t say much — and it didn’t need to. Just a phone number and a photo of a half-naked woman.
But rather than setting up a sexual rendezvous with the half-naked woman, the caller got an earful from the man on the other end. Most of the women who advertised for sex were victims of human trafficking, the caller was told, and many were underage. 
“What now?” the caller responded, taken aback. Then he added: “Is Mark there?”
“Dude, I know you’re not calling for Mark,” the call-taker said.
“I think I have the wrong number.”
“I think you need to stay off Backpage.”
The exchange was one of 84 that night, part of an effort by a group of San Diego-based male volunteers to educate callers about the realities of human trafficking.
They call it the Bunch of Guys Cyber Patrol.
The fight against human trafficking has evolved significantly around the nation over recent years, with the most tangible efforts aimed at rescuing victims and prosecuting traffickers. Reducing demand for paid sex is a trickier proposition, one that takes a cultural shift and calls for a long-term commitment.
Public awareness campaigns are now common — in airports, at conventions, on freeway billboards — but the Cyber Patrol hopes it can be effective in another way: by appealing to individuals in a one-on-one conversation.
 

To read the full story or watch the video by Kristina Davis on LA Times: Click Here

Franciscans Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Co-Sponsor Video Series On Human Trafficking

The La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, is co-sponsoring an online video series titled “The Faces of Human Trafficking.”

The FSPAs partnered with Minnesota’s Breaking Free, one of the nation’s leading organizations for working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking to create the series, which is being launched this month in connection with Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“Our goal was to create an online resource to educate human trafficking support workers and the general public and give voice to the survivors,” said FSPA Sister Corrina Thomas, who serves in the human trafficking field.

The series features stories of survivors, pimps and johns, she said.

For example, Jenny, a survivor who was featured in the series debut Friday, said in her video, “It’s a brainwashing that happens. There’s a reason traffickers go after children.

“I want people to know that women don’t choose this. This is something that happens to them — they’re victims,” said Jenny, who, like other survivors in the series, talk about their childhoods, their time in “the life,” how they survived and what they would like everyone to know about the billion-dollar industry.

Introducing each video is FSPA Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, who founded the task force.

The FSPAs will release the videos at noon on the following dates, with specified ones followed by Twitter Chat via @fspatweets using the hashtag #HumanTraffickingFaces:

  • Jan. 10 — “Meet Laurie”
  • Jan. 12 — “Meet Anne,” followed by Twitter Chat
  • Jan. 17 — “Meet Jessica”
  • Jan. 19 — “Meet Maya,” followed by Twitter Chat
  • Jan. 24 — “Meet Ms. R”

All videos and additional resources will be available at the FSPA web site.

Also this month and into early February, near the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of human trafficking, the series also will feature “Flora,” “Mr. J” and “Mr. P.”

Bakhita, who was born in the Darfur region of southern Sudan in the 19th century, was kidnapped at the age of 7, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means “fortunate.” She was resold five times, and her owners brutalized her, including branding, beating and cutting her. In one incident, one of her owners rubbed salt into the 114 cuts he had made on her body.

Freed through a series of unusual circumstances, she became attracted to the Catholic faith and became a Canossian nun, assisting her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors. Her canonization as a saint in 2000 resulted in part from the affection of children attending the sisters’ school and local citizens.

The FSPAs also will host a public human trafficking awareness prayer service on at 4 p.m. Feb. 6 in Mary of the Angels Chapel at 901 Franciscan Way in La Crosse.

To view the story by Mike Tighe as it originally appears on The La Crosse Tribune: Click Here

Anti-Online Sex Trafficking Bill Gets Crushed Under Big Tech’s Lobbying

A bill that purports to disrupt online child sex trafficking authored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and amended by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was rushed through the House Judiciary Committee last week and now heads over to the House Commerce Committee for consideration.

It should be a time of celebration. And yet, survivors, victims, and their non-profits could not be more distressed.

Why? Because several weeks ago, H.R. 1865 (the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” or “FOSTA”) was hijacked in the dead of night. Rep. Wagner, unbeknownst to the survivor and NGO community, caved in to the demands of certain tech lobby organizations, allowing the bill to be stripped of its heart and soul. FOSTA, originally an amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, was quietly gutted, leaving nothing behind for victims or survivors. Despite its name, the bill no longer “allows victims to fight online trafficking.”

H.R. 1865 was first conceived earlier this year on the heels of “I AM JANE DOE,” our documentary film which chronicled several Jane Doe children (and their families) who were waging a legal battle against Backpage.com to determine whether Backpage had facilitated the crime of child sex trafficking on its site. These children were 13, 14, and 15 years old when they were sold for sex via Backpage. Or, more bluntly put, repeatedly raped. 

Many of the children who sued Backpage lost their cases because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was enacted at the dawn of the internet. Section 230, originally intended to shield website bulletin boards from lawsuits related to third party content, has been, over the years, liberally expanded by federal courts.

Last year, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, in Doe v Backpage, radically stretched the protective shield of Section 230 to cover Backpage, even if it was engaged in facilitating the crime of sex trafficking (in violation of another federal statute). The 1st Circuit court also, perhaps wringing their collective hands, advised the children to seek a legislative solution to this conflict of laws.

The children have done just that.

To read the full story byMary Mazzio on The Hill: Click Here

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration-founded Task Force to End Modern Slavery Launches Video Series

Join FSPA-hosted Twitter chats during Human Trafficking Awareness Month

La Crosse, Wis. – The Franciscans Sisters of Perpetual Adoration-founded Task Force to End Modern Slavery partnered with Minnesota’s Breaking Free, one of the nation’s leading organizations for working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking, to create “The Faces of Human Trafficking” video series. The series will be launched throughout January, Human Trafficking Awareness month.

“Our goal was to create an online resource to educate human trafficking support workers, the general public and give voice to the survivors,” said Sister Corrina Thomas, who serves in the field of human trafficking. “With the help of Breaking Free, we’re introducing the world to the stories of survivors, pimps (sellers) and Johns (buyers).”

“It’s a brainwashing that happens; there’s a reason traffickers go after children,” said Jenny, human trafficking survivor featured in the series debut. “I want people to know that women don’t choose this. This is something that happens to them; they’re victims.” Jenny and other survivors featured in “The Faces of Human Trafficking” recall their childhoods, their time in “the life,” how they survived and what they’d like everyone to know about this billion dollar industry.

Each video is introduced by Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, founder of La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery. 

Release Dates
FSPA will release all videos at noon CST at www.fspa.org/modernslavery and all Twitter Chats will be hosted on Fridays from 12:30-12:45 p.m. CST at www.twitter.com/fspatweets using the hashtag #HumanTraffickingFaces.

Friday, Jan. 5 (released now): Meet Jenny, followed by Twitter Chat @fspatweets using #HumanTraffickingFaces

 Wednesday, Jan. 10: Meet Laurie

 Friday, Jan. 12: Meet Anne, followed by Twitter Chat @fspatweets using #HumanTraffickingFaces

 Wednesday, Jan. 17: Meet Jessica

 Friday, Jan. 19: Meet Maya, followed by Twitter Chat @fspatweets using #HumanTraffickingFaces

 Wednesday, Jan. 24: Meet Ms. R

All videos, and additional resources, will be available at www.fspa.org/modernslavery. Later this month and into early February, near the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of human trafficking, we’ll also introduce you to Flora, Mr. J and Mr. P.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration will also host a human trafficking awareness prayer service on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at 4 p.m. in Mary of the Angels Chapel, 901 Franciscan Way, La Crosse, Wisconsin. All are welcome. 

Based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are women religious engaged in furthering the work of the Catholic Church and the Gospel. Their partners in ministry, including affiliates and prayer partners, join them in service of God’s mission. The sisters work in the United States and internationally in varied ministries, creating innovative approaches to healing, teaching and praying. Visit FSPA online at www.fspa.org.

 

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