The brilliant way technology is being used to fight human trafficking
- Category: Uncategorised
- Created: Saturday, 17 August 2019 20:30
- Written by Alice Williams - NEWS.com.au
Despite the unparalleled layers of secrecy it operates under, human trafficking in 2019 is big business. It’s the fastest growing illegal trade in the world, with a calculated 40 million people currently enslaved generating profits of more than AUD$215 billion a year.
Obviously, when there’s money like that on the table, it’s going to take a lot to get the major players to fold. And as Caroline Taylor, vice president and CMO of IBM Global Markets, said during her address at IBM’s Think Summit in Sydney, ‘this is not a fight the good guys are winning — yet.’
40 million people currently enslaved generating profits of more than AUD$215 billion a year.
The natural impulse is to treat trafficking as a human rights abuse; in the majority of cases victims, mostly women and children, lack legal documentation in the country they are forced to work or held for sex acts. They live under extreme fear of retribution if they escape or turn to authorities. The player-predators, and all those who benefit from their crimes, are expert at keeping their money laundered and their operations on mute.
However Taylor says that by thinking of human trafficking like the big business it is, we might have a much better chance at bankrupting it. Involved with the NGO Stop The Traffik (STT) for 15 years, Caroline initially picked up the fight by doing pro-bono marketing work and later by becoming the chair of the board of trustees.
What initially started off as a passion project, Taylor at IBM is now working with Stop The Traffik by using ‘the power of technologies to establish intelligence-led prevention of human trafficking, and to build resilient communities around the world by inspiring, informing and equipping people to know what human trafficking is, how to identify it and how to respond appropriately if they see it.’
Through this intelligence-led approach, Stop The Traffik aims to build a global picture of human trafficking hotspots and trends, empowering individuals to make more informed and better choices, encouraging them to safe places where they can get help.
Taylor elaborates, ‘I’m often asked why is IBM involved? My response is simple, it’s because we can and therefore we must. By exploring how the application of our technology can help combat human trafficking, we have the opportunity to make a difference in one of the most pressing social issues of our time, with many millions of people around the world being subject to multiple forms of illegal exploitation.’
I'm often asked why is IBM involved? My response is simple, it's because we can and therefore we must.
Building technology to find stolen lives
The company created a Traffik Analysis Hub (TAHub), which is a cloud-based system using sophisticated analytics and AI to gather and processes data from multiple global stakeholders like financial institutions and law enforcement, and provides tangible analyses by and for partner organisations around the world.
This addresses one huge problem faced by those involved in the global fight against human trafficking: a manual process for tracking modern slavery, with highly fragmented and distributed information. Specific and detailed knowledge of where human trafficking and slavery occurs does exist, but there is difficulty in pooling this knowledge in one place from which prevention, resilience building and enforcement actions could be developed.
Through AI and natural language processing, banks will have greater ability to limit access to these illegal profits, law enforcement actions will increase the risk of the traffickers being caught.
Using Watson Natural Language Understanding, the TAHub has been trained by IBM with expertise from STT and other stakeholders to identify human trafficking incidents such as exploitation types and demographic details. IBM Watson Discovery is specifically trained on human trafficking terms and by using machine learning, ingests open sources of data at a large scale and from multiple sources – such as hundreds of thousands of daily public news feeds.
Caroline explains, ‘working with banks, and using AI, patterns of financial transactions can be mapped, along with information of incidents reported by NGOs and public domain information in the media.’
‘Through AI and natural language processing, banks will have greater ability to limit access to these illegal profits, law enforcement actions will increase the risk of the traffickers being caught, and potential victims and high-risk communities can be put on alert, making them less vulnerable to exploitation.’
‘To make progress, we ultimately need to pool resources and information across the private and public sectors to combat – and ultimately prevent – this horrendous criminal activity. More financial institutions, retailers and their supply chains, and any other organisations with data that can help us to build as comprehensive a picture as possible to analyse how this industry continues to work.’
What you can do to help
On top of this, she says, the general public needs to be part of the fight against human trafficking. ‘IBM created the Stop App, to allow anyone with a smartphone to anonymously share their concerns. This helps Stop The Traffik build an even bigger picture of patterns and trends.’
While the vile atrocities of women and children being trafficked for sexual gratification fade in and out of the headlines regularly, domestic servitude and forced labour also make up a huge portion of the problem. Every day unaware Aussies are buying products, almost exclusively imported goods, made by people ‘working’ under these conditions.
IBM created the Stop App, to allow anyone with a smartphone to anonymously share their concerns.
This month will see the first reporting cycle for Australia’s long-awaited Modern Slavery Act, which means many Australian businesses will be forced to start documenting the risk of slavery in their supply chain to make them accountable for their workers, and those of their suppliers all the way back to the extraction of raw materials. The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act was passed last year but took effect in January and states that reports will be published online, open to the public, with the government obligated to name and shame companies that refuse to comply. But... that’s about it; there are currently no penalties beyond the threat of the public finding out. That’s where we, as the consumer, need to pick up the fight.
Caroline, proving that a small group of people have the power to make a seismic difference in the lives of our most vulnerable humans, says ‘based on previous successes with our existing analytics, including successful identification and prosecution of trafficking networks, we are confident that this project will get ahead of the traffickers.’
In her brilliant Think Summit address she borrowed the perfect caution from Desmond Tutu, ‘there comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.’
Source : https://www.news.com.au/features/v3/dnac-629/the-brilliant-way-technology-is-being-used-to-fight-human-trafficking/?utm_source=taboola&utm_medium=native