Child Trafficking and the Internet

childtra1There are more people enslaved in the world today than were taken out of Africa during 400 years of trans-Atlantic slave trading.

Human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery, and it is thriving. The modern trade in humans is as broad as illegal drug trafficking in its global reach.

The sale of victims is occurring in virtually every country in the world. America is no exception, though most Americans are unaware that that child – and adult – trafficking is a major problem in every city and town in this country. In the US, this trafficking of children is virtually always for sexual exploitation. In other countries, it includes the sale of children into forced labor as well.

In this blog, I am specifically focusing on child trafficking in the US.

This is Human Trafficking awareness month, and every person must make a choice – to turn away from the ugliness and thereby contribute its continuance, or take action.

Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, provided the following statements in his congressional briefing in July:

“Conservatively, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that at least 100,000 children each year are caught up in the insidious world of child prostitution:  55% of street girls engage in prostitution; 75% work for a pimp; the entry age for girls is 12 – 14; and for boys, 11 – 13. This is an enormous problem.  Yet, it is under-recognized and under-reported, a problem of hidden victims.

  1. That much of this [trafficking of children] is [done by] organized crime, not Mafia or La Casa Nostra, but organized crime nonetheless.  These kids are commodities for sale or trade.  There is a network.  They are trafficked, moved from city to city for the financial gain of those who use, abuse and control them.
  2. That this problem is not confined to the nation’s major cities, or to the coasts.  One police commanding officer said to me, “the only way not to find this problem in any community is simply not to look for it.”  Today, we are proving it.  We are finding it in big cities and small towns, and in every region of this country.
  3. That these kids are victims.  This is 21st Century slavery.  They lack the ability to walk away.  The pimps who use and discard them are the criminals, as are those who patronize them.   These kids need to be rescued, not arrested. And
  4. That technology has changed the playing field.  Offenders don’t just parade these kids on city streets any more.  Today, a customer can shop online for a child from the privacy of his home or hotel room.  Internet services have made it possible to “pimp” these kids, offering them to prospective customers with little or no risk.”

The Internet’s Role in Human Trafficking

The fantastic opportunities the internet and online services provide are not limited to good people with good intentions. These same tools also enable child exploitation and human trafficking. For example:

  • Photo sharing technologies are used:
    • For the instantaneous and mass dissemination of sexually abusive images of children for personal and/or commercial reasons
    • To aid in the selection of children – and adults – for purchase or rent by traffickers and pimps
  • Social networks, chat rooms, forums, classified sites, and other forms of mass connectivity:
    • Allow those with images and videos of child exploitation to reach out and anonymously connect with individuals interested in acquiring these
    • Help those trafficking children – and adults – to find buyers. Young girls are sold by traffickers and rented out through pimps by the hour, and by the minute, for sexual acts
    • Provide an environment for people with a sexual interest in children to develop and maintain online pedophilic networks that help them normalize their behavior, share their fantasies and actual exploits, hone their skills, and share new methods
  • Ecommerce tools are used to conduct the financial transactions associated with the sale of images and videos of child exploitation, and the outright sale or rent of victims of human trafficking
  • Encryption technology enables content and transaction conversations virtually impossible to detect
  • Peer2peer file sharing allows users to circumvent risks of hosting illegal content on public servers
  • And so on..

The U.K based internet watchdog organization, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), reported in 2008 that they had positively identified 2,755 global internet domains containing images of child sexual abuse – 80% of which were found to be commercial in nature, an increase of 33% from 2006 (IWF, 2008). Analysis of site content found that 80% of the images recovered were of children under 10 years of age, with 10% of under 2 years of age, 33% between 3 and 6 years of age and 37% between 6 and 10 years of age. The research found that these images predominantly depicted more female victims (79%) than male victims (7%), with 14% of images depicting both male and female victims.

Your Role in Stopping Child Trafficking

  1. Learn – about the issues, how to identify trafficking in your city, how to help victims
  2. Take action – speak out, donate to one of the organizations fighting human trafficking, join the walk on Sept 26-27th in your area – or start one in your area if it does not  yet exist,


Get informed and speak out. Far too many ‘good’ people still condemn the victims rather than the abusers. Addressing this injustice, President of Shared Hope International, and former U.S. Congresswoman, Linda Smith (1994-1998) said, “At an average age of 12 these children are lured and snatched by traffickers. It is a severe injustice when American girls are held in physical and mental slavery and then punished for the crime that is committed against them,” said

Over the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in professional awareness of the use of communications technologies in the commission of child sexual abuse, both through the consumption and dissemination of child pornography and for the purpose of acquiring victims for contact sexual abuse.

There is however, still a great deal that needs to be done to choke the trade and to protect the victims. Though most countries now have rules against human trafficking, many have not brought any cases to trial. Critical protections needed for victims are provided by NGO’s (Non Government Organizations) whose funding is strained when donor nations, companies and individual philanthropists struggle under today’s financial crisis.

Learn more through the links at the bottom of this article.

Take Action

  1. Join the Walk for Awareness Sept 26-27th in your city Stop Child Trafficking Now
  2. Volunteer with, or donate to, an organization fighting human trafficking
  3. If you see child trafficking in your city, or if you know about it, or if you suspect it, report it Call the Health and Human Services Anti-Trafficking Hotline at1-888-373-7888 or contact NCMEC via their CyberTipline, or their hotline 1-800-THE-LOST

“Our lives begin to end when we are silent about things that matter” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


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