Technology Addresses Human Trafficking: A New Global Rescue System

With Julia Ormond, Actress, and Founder and President, Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET); Hugh Bradlow, CTO, Telstra; Michael Geraghty, CTO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and Andrew Wallis, CEO, unseen; hosted by Mark Anderson

JO: Extremely passionate issue that can be solved through innovation. Harnessing technology to create simple, global rescue system. We need to create a simple global rescue plan for international students globally.

Enslavement and trafficking is everywhere. People are enslaved for generations. There is huge sexploitation here, like a group of enslaved workers held in Florida that didn’t even speak Spanish and were not able to escape.

We’re seeing fight and flight in response to stress: Economic uncertainty. Eg. An African woman had to sell her child into enslavement to feed the other 3.

Often these appear to be jobs, or coyotes who sell immigrants to slave groups on the other side of the border. It’s not just about sex trade: For every 1 sex worker, there are 9 forced labor workers.

AW: Started with sex trafficking, but also deal with kids, forced labor, etc. Our #1 goal is to put us out of business. Globally, there are more slaves today than ever in history. There’s no strategic directional action for addressing this.

70% of surveyed survivors had access to cell phones. Often they have tiny windows for escaping, often they’re held in bondage by financial not physical shackles.

“Before I came here, I was blind. But now I can see.”

JO: During slavery, it cost the equivalent of $40,000 to buy a plantation worker. Today you can buy an ag worker for $300.

MG: Missing children’s movement was launched after two abductions. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: clearinghouse for abducted children.

Back in the day, there was no way to track missing children. Legislation was created to address this problem and to create a central database of missing children.

The internet led to luring of children for exploitation. Created cyber tipline for internet reporting of child sex exploitation.

700,000 reports of missing children every year in the U.S. Many of these are children that have run away from bad households.

Unaccounted for sex offenders are often abductors; they’ve created a tracking system.

Often kids that go missing wind up online in erotic personals.

MA: Is there a technology solution that would help to solve this problem? Turned to Hugh Bradlow.

HB: Massive set of constraints around the problem. Want this to be universal, so you can’t assume they have data plan or smartphone. More than likely prepaid without allowance for international or toll-free calls. Assume they’re not in the country in which they received the phone.

Four possible options:

  1. USSD: very little-used feature on phones, almost never paid for, doesn’t work on Verizon, Sprint in China.
  2. Toll-free text
  3. Toll-free number

MA: If it works out, it would be the first time that people involved in this would be able to fight back.

JO: We need $800,000 to get started