28 Tech Tools Fighting Sex Trafficking In India
March 27, 2020
Over the last decade, the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) has shifted format, as static physical outlets for enslavement of children became increasingly easy targets for law enforcement interventions. In India, red light areas in Mumbai and other urban centers have been steadily shrinking while the prevalence of masked CSEC outlets — bars, karaoke clubs, massage centers — appears to have grown.
Increasingly enabled by mobile or online platforms, these trends in CSEC have presented anti-trafficking responders with new challenges in both removing victims from exploitative situations and in disrupting the criminal networks engaged in their exploitation. Traditional responses like physical raids of CSEC establishments and rescue of victims that proved successful in years past are now in need of transition to strategies that are more attuned and responsive to the online enablement of CSEC. To better understand opportunities for combatting online enabled CSEC and leading up new programs under the DFID partnership, GFEMS commissioned a study of technology tools with potential to positively impact the fight against CSEC in India.
The final list presents these 28 tools, divided into three main categories: Prevention (4), Victim Identification and Rescue (19), and Rehabilitation (4). This list is not an attempt to rank tools, but to profile them and highlight their potential in the India context. Most of the Victim Identification and Rescue tools — including image identification, web scrapers, and data aggregation tools — come from outside India. These may have potential uses in many countries and contexts. Challenges to using these tools in India are presented and discussed.
Featured Tool: Red Alert
Red Alert was developed and used by Telangana-based NGO My Choices Foundation (MCF) and integrates technology across a host of bundled preventive activities. India’s Quantium Analytics developed Red Alert for MCF, relying on technology from both Quantium and CISCO. Red Alert focuses on identifying vulnerable villages, in part by collecting publicly available socio-economic data on source areas, and then prioritizes the same for interventions. This list is shared with NGO partners who then undertake awareness activities in identified vulnerable villages and encourage local community members to take on the role of ‘rakshaks’ (voluntary community protectors). Red Alert also includes pre and post intervention assessments. A hotline has been launched where callers can report child protection violations including trafficking and to seek information. Red Alert’s primary users are NGOs in MCF’s network which spans six states (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Jharkhand). Primary Users: NGOs
Featured Tools: DIG and Deepdive
DIG: DIG is a search and analysis system to collect and analyze data from open source websites containing child sexual abuse material (CSAM). It was developed under the MEMEX program, led by the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. DIG can be downloaded and operated on a laptop, does not require high technology skills, and supports cloud-based storage. It is now used widely by many agencies for fighting problems such as human trafficking with the use of technology.
Significantly, many of the platforms that solicit sexual contact, conversations, etc. are not indexed by popular search engines. The technology indexes any domain for search capability along with artificial intelligence to process complex data. Relying on advertisement data and postings on the surface and deep web, the tool has indexed close to 25 million websites making it easy for a law enforcement investigator to frame queries by name, phone number, etc.
In India, CyberPeace Foundation, which has a long history of partnership with law enforcement and policy makers, is looking to pioneer the adaptation of the DIG concept for the Indian context, enabling effective scraping of the deep and surface webs to monitor and track trafficker activity
Deepdive: A companion of MEMEX’s DIG, this technology helps traditional interventions by generating credible intelligence about traffickers and trafficking activity by searching (“scraping”) through web advertisements containing CSAM. It depicts important information from advertisements graphically, like the source of the advertisement, then creates a database of these advertisements and makes them searchable (when they are traditionally not searchable — unindexed). Therefore, when an investigator searches for a phone number, this technology maps the different advertisements that contain the number, plots the sources graphically and creates geolocation trails of the movement of the victim or the trafficker. Primary Users: Law Enforcement
Featured Tool: Liberty Shared’s Victim Case Management System (VCMS)
Developed by Hong Kong-based Liberty Shared, VCMS brings together a community of anti-trafficking NGOs and integrates processes of case management for victims. It facilitates systematic recording of information of the victims including personal history and background characteristics, details regarding the trafficking incident including site, people involved, and the nature of exploitation. It provides scope for outlining clear goals and tasks related to various dimensions of rehabilitation such as education, health, counseling, and financial status (including access to related training). Team members can enter information easily and track progress.
The information can also be tagged so that it shows up on the feed of another team member. Options for ensuring privacy and confidentiality are also incorporated with functions such as hide. It also includes a directory of partner NGOs and other resources that can be accessed easily. VCMS also offers the scope for multiple organizations supporting a victim to share and view data to facilitate supportive and coordinated actions. VCMS has facilitated streamlining of case management related work, internal collaboration across teams, and standardized reporting. It enables access to past cases as well.
VCMS is currently being implemented through a network of 60 NGO partners in 15 countries. As of early 2019, about 31,612 cases were being managed through VCMS. In India, VCMS is being implemented by Mahima in West Bengal and at least one other organization. Liberty Shared provides the technology free of cost and access to the platform is free. Primary Users: NGOs
Download the full catalogue to learn more about the 23 other tech solutions fighting sex trafficking in India.
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This scoping work was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).