Everyone knows Facebook’s software is awesome at finding locations and picking out friends’ faces for tags. Now, the company will use its groundbreaking technology to help find bad guys and rescue victims of sex trafficking.
Recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Facebook engineers will help his office use “innovative data and analytical methods” to combat online child sex operations. The plan involves the use of algorithms to scour internet ads. Specifically, the algorithms will look for patterns in images, text, phone numbers, and other data that turns up on sites where commercial sex is sold.
“Facebook is pleased to be working with Attorney General Schneiderman on his efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking. We look forward to helping the Attorney General and his staff bring attention to this important issue,” said Facebook’s director of state public policy.
Facebook declined to further provide details, which has allowed people to speculate that Facebook will allow the government to use their massive database of “faceprints” to identify victims who appear in the sex ads. Faceprints serve as distinct digital identifiers, similar to a fingerprint, that are based on the unique features of a person’s face. Remember how, when you upload a photo to your profile, it asks to tag a specific person in that photo? Facebook currently uses the technology to suggest tags for people when users post a photos.
In the case of sex-trafficking victims, law enforcement agencies could cross-check images of their faces to discover their identities—and possibly pictures of the people who are controlling them.
In its release describing the initiative, the Attorney General’s office cited examples of pimps and sex trafficking rings who posted pictures of minors on websites like Backpage and Craigslist, describing the practice as “modern day slavery.”
The Attorney General’s office announced the Facebook partnership as part of a two-day summit on human trafficking that took place in Manhattan, New York. Facebook and Schneiderman have collaborated in the past, most recently on a project to send AMBER Alerts to the NewsFeeds of social network users when a child goes missing.
Why This Matters
One of the Fight the New Drug’s main purposes from the beginning is to educate on the harms of porn and the industry’s connection to sexual exploitation.
Porn is inseparably connected to sex trafficking. Many people don’t realize that clicking pornography is directly supporting the demand for sexual exploitation on a global scale. To viewers, pornography can appear as a world of consensually-acted fantasy. However, those who participate in and create pornography often experience exploitation.
Watch this powerful video to see how clicking porn fuels trafficking.