White House highlights efforts to engage technology in fight against trafficking


President Barack Obama took major action to bolster efforts to combat human trafficking on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. He announced new measures during an address to the Clinton Global Initiative, including an executive order that incorporates key research from USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy conducted by a team led by research director Mark Latonero.

Read the executive order by clicking here.

The President emphasized that human trafficking is “modern slavery” and initiatives by the United States and abroad must be set in place to help end trafficking.

During the address, President Obama said, “Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.”

The President underscores findings in CCLP’s pioneering 2011 report, Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds. The report discusses how a number of existing technologies can assist law enforcement to combat trafficking, including photo recognition, mapping technologies, mobile phone applications, and online data collection and analytics. cover.png

Human Trafficking Online report: HumanTrafficking_FINAL.pdf

In an article for USAID’s Impact blog, Latonero asserts the fundamental idea that internet technologies can be used to combat human trafficking. “For those seeking to develop technology for anti-trafficking initiatives, we suggest maintaining a focus on victims and survivors as the ultimate beneficiaries of any technological intervention.”

President Obama also noted, “We’re encouraging tech companies and advocates and law enforcement — and we’re also challenging college students — to develop tools that our young people can use to stay safe online and on their smart phones.”

CCLP supports this work by organizing multi-sector meetings involving tech companies, researchers and anti-trafficking officials. CCLP co-hosted a meeting on technology and trafficking with the Department of State in June 2010, and held a joint meeting with the California Attorney General’s office in November 2011.

The White House also notes that “The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Council on Women and Girls are convening advocates, law enforcement leaders, technology companies and researchers to brainstorm ways to share information more effectively with law enforcement; harness the power of the Internet to reach victims; and explore other innovative approaches to provide victims of child sex trafficking with the help they need.”

Latonero participated in the initial Workshop on Data & Technology in Trafficking convened by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and The White House Council on Women and Girls.

Latonero continues to participate in these White House working groups and is working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice to develop technologies to monitor and combat human trafficking.

Watch President Obama’s speech from earlier today: