#minorsextrafficking | AI Leads The Fight Against Human Trafficking & Harassment

Artificial Intelligence is transforming the world we live in. Its impact on society, right from employee satisfaction to enabling new technologies, has been unpredictably valuable. While everyone talks about the commercial application of artificial intelligence, what is often overlooked is how artificial intelligence is helping fight unjust. Whether it is the on-going COVID-19 pandemic or atrocious acts like human trafficking, artificial intelligence systems are helping the authorities track the responsible faster. Let’s take a look at this disruptive technology that is adding value to make the world a better place.


AI’s Fight Against Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one social crime that has been historically proved to be challenging to combat. In 2017, the International Labor Organization revealed that this multi-million dollar black market business victimizes an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide, especially women and children. Many industrialized cities are serving as hotbeds of this criminal activity as they make enormous illegal money made every year through human trafficking. Often, the victims fall prey to slavery as sex workers, beggars, drug dealers, child laborers, domestic workers, factory workers, and laborers in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, mining, commercial fishing, and other industries.

Though finding victims, following money trails, and confronting the culprits, can take a huge amount of time, artificial intelligence (AI) software and tools can augment the process and help take timely measures to prevent human trafficking and catch the perpetrators.

One of the most popular illustrations of AI’s application was when IBM teamed up with STOP THE TRAFFIK to develop a new IBM Cloud-hosted data hub that enables institutions such as Barclays, Europol, Liberty Global, Lloyd’s Banking Group, University College London, Western Union, and others alike to provide its analysts with information to help address human trafficking.

The tool, trained in artificial intelligence and machine learning, can recognize and detect specific human trafficking terms and incidents. AI also enables the hub to ingest open-source data — including thousands of daily news feeds — to help analysts better identify the characteristics of human traffickings, such as recruitment and transportation. After interpreting the data, it is converted into information that governments, NGOs, and financial institutions can act on.


When Software Leads The Fight

Traffickers often use the Internet to place ads that promise false jobs and employment to lure potential victims. Traffic Jam, a software created by Carnegie Mellon University graduate Emily Kennedy, uses Amazon Web Services’ facial recognition tools to help find match a suspected victim’s photo from a missing person ad or social media, and see if the victim’s face appears in the ads. With an 88% success rate, data from Traffic Jam has led to rescuing hundreds of victims of human trafficking in the US and Canada. Analysis reports from Traffic Jam showed there were 133,000 new sex ads a day on Backpage.com before the site was closed.

Spotlight from Thorn uses predictive analytics to identify the victims of child sexual abuse and child trafficking. Moreover, by analyzing the web trafficking and data gathered from sex ads and escort websites, it also identifies the potential victims of human and child trafficking. It is already in use by the US Federal department to solve complex child trafficking cases. This AI-based tool has helped identify over 14,000 child victims of human trafficking in the past four years.

Further, since prostitution and sex trafficking are often linked with human trafficking, law enforcement bodies raid suspicious hotel and motel rooms where victims are forced to work in sex ads. To help police with this, St Louis event planners, Molly Hackett, Jane Quinn, and Kimberly Ritter designed TraffickCam to analyze the carpets, furniture, and room accessories in an image’s background to narrow down which hotel the subject has been photographed in. This has been highly useful in finding such ads, since traffickers tend to use grainy photographs to obscure the surroundings, focusing only on the photographed victims.

The computer vision algorithm from XIX scrapes images from sites used by sex traffickers and labels objects in images so data experts can quickly search for and review suspect ads. Each sex ad contains an average of three photos, and XIX can scrape and analyze about 4,000 ads per minute, which is about the rate that new ones are posted online. This tool helps find both trafficking victims and traffickers.


Putting A Stop To Gender-Based Violence

Like human trafficking, sexual harassment is a traumatic experience for people. An online survey launched in January 2018, by a nonprofit called Stop Street Harassment found that 81% of women and 43% of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.

Artificial intelligence may provide new ways of stamping these harrowing gender-based violence incidents. Several AI-driven technologies are emerging to address sexual harassment including workplace harassment, child sex abuse, and more.

In 2017, Botler AI, a startup based in Montreal, launched a conversation AI that provides free information and guidance to those who have been sexually harassed and are unsure of their legal rights. Using deep learning, the AI system was trained on more than 300,000 US and Canadian criminal court documents, including over 57,000 documents and complaints related to sexual harassment. The system starts by asking simple open-ended neutral questions that can guide the software, like what state you live in and when the incident. From the information provided by the person, the software determines whether the situation explained by the user classifies as sexual harassment and notes which laws may have been violated under the criminal code. Then, it generates an incident report that the user can hand over to relevant authorities.

The scope of AI that can assist with sexual harassment investigations is huge. In the near future, the hope is that its algorithms will be capable of analyzing wider portions of data in audio-visual format too. In forthcoming times, artificial intelligence tools can help law enforcers see patterns— heat maps that show where certain problems are arising and under what circumstances and take appropriate yet timely action. With more detailed data at their fingertips, it will be resourceful to monitor and mitigate such social evils.

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