Posted on September 5, 2012 by Jessica Zech
This blog first appeared on the Inside Annenberg website.
The Miami Herald mentioned USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy research director Mark Latonero’s report on online human trafficking in an article about Internet ads promoting young prostitutes.
Backpage.com has gotten heat for allowing adult ads for underage, trafficked prostitutes on its website. The site maintains that it reviews the ads and alerts the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of anything suspicious. Despite Backpage’s efforts, pimps who place the ads have learned not to use words the website screens for and post pictures of more mature women to avoid detection.
Latonero suggests in his report that to end human trafficking people have to address the whole process from getting the young prostitutes to preparing and selling them. Shutting down one website will not solve the problem because the ads will inevitably resurface on another.
Latonero also pointed out the imbalance between the resources companies use for marketing purposes and the technology they use to solve social issues.
“The private sector capitalizes on the online visibility of Internet users by routinely collecting data on consumer behaviors for targeted marketing and advertising strategies,” Latonero said. “Yet efforts to harness data and technological tools to address social problems lag behind.”