Microsoft Funds Human Trafficking Research

A $185,000 grant, awarded by Microsoft Research and the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit funds research that aims to provide intelligence and data concerning the advertising and selling of human trafficking victims, and the searching for and purchasing of victims by “johns” (those who buy victims).

“It’s clear that child sex trafficking is evolving from the streets onto the Internet’s social networking sites and other online advertising sites,” said professor Mary G. Leary of Catholic University of America, whose project is focusing on providing a comprehensive assessment of judicial opinions on child sex trafficking issued over the last 10 years. “Besides the Internet, cell phones and other technological devices are used to accomplish sex trafficking goals (of criminals, like johns and pimps). But how are the courts using this evidence? That’s what we’d like to determine,” Leary said.

“Human trafficking is a human rights issue that cannot be solved by one group alone,” said Jennifer Musto, Ph.D., of Rice University, whose project aims to provide research on how law enforcement uses technology to combat the trafficking of children for commercial exploitation. Law enforcement training that can be provided as an outcome of this Microsoft-funded research will help officials identify those sold through the human trafficking trade as victims and not criminals.

Another goal of Microsoft’s research is to raise human trafficking awareness because the public seems to be largely unaware that victims of sex trafficking are most often times forced into the slave trade by means of coercion, and not by their own voluntary actions. “While technology certainly has a role in promoting the online solicitation of sex trafficking victims, the great thing about it is that it also plays a huge role in both preventing and combating the crime by generating awareness, and providing proof of trends and indicators,” Musto said. “We are working to help provide a means to succeed in accomplishing the ultimate goal of all those behind anti-human trafficking–and that is to abolish slavery.”

Learn more at Melissa Hoon’s The Daily Titan article: $185,000 Microsoft grant given for research in human trafficking.

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