Computer Crime Research Center


Technology Is a Double-Edged Sword: Illegal Human Trafficking in the Information Age

Date: March 05, 2005
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Judge Mohamed CHAWKI and Dr. Mohamed WAHAB

... held companies that slice and dice the same content under different brands”.

c) The Digital Video Disk (DVD)
Videos of sexually exploited and trafficked victims can be shot from multiple angles, and copied on DVDs for distribution and online accessibility. Viewers can interact with DVD movies in much the same way they do with video games, giving them a more active role. According to a producer:
“If a viewer wants something different, we give it to him. The viewer can go inside the head of the person having sex with [name deleted], male or female. He can choose which character to follow. He can re-edit the movie. It’s a great technology”.
Although technologies like this have many applications and enable creativity and interactivity, when used in pornographic films, these raise the question of the impact on people and expectations about relationships. A portion of men who practice the illegal trafficking in women do so either because their lack of social skills or their misogynistic attitudes prevent them from establishing relationships with their peers.

d) The Internet Applications and Services
This help in the transfer of files, images and videos across geographical boarders instantaneously in an undetected manner. Accordingly most acts are committed with the help of:
1. Web Sites
They are considered the main factor for the distribution of sexual materials online. Moreover streaming videos can be downloaded or viewed with Web browsers. The most recent versions of Web browsers come packaged with plug-ins. The only country for which there seems to be a decline in Web advertisements for sexual materials is Sweden. The new Swedish law has deterred public advertising for adult entertainment. A Web site registered in Denmark claims it to have the “world’s largest collection of real life amateur slaves”. Men are encouraged to “submit a slave to the picture farm”. Graphic descriptions of extremely violent acts are included in the advertisement. A Web site registered in Moscow advertises itself as “the best and most violent rape site on earth”. It claims to have “Several Hunders [sic] of rape pics”. Subscribers are offered 30,000 hardcore porn images, 500 online video channels, and 100 long, high quality videos.
2. Peer to Peer Networks:
They are mostly known under the brand of Napster. Within this application, the Peer-to- Peer networking concept is used to share files, i.e. The exchange of MPEG compressed audio files. However, Peer-to-Peer is not only about file sharing, it is also about establishing multimedia communication networks based on Peer-to-Peer concepts or resource sharing.
3. File swapping programs:
The file swapping programs are used to search files on the network. With the help of this program, the user designates one directory on his/her computer that will be open to the public and another for downloaded files. When the user logs onto the Internet, he/she will be automatically connected to all other people running the same program. All available files are indexed into a large searchable database. When keywords are entered the request moves from one computer to the next returning links to files. This has revolutionized how computers and people communicate with each other on the Internet.
4. File transfer protocol:
FTP and standard Internet protocol, are the simplest way to exchange files between computers on the Internet. Like the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which transfers displayable Web pages and related files, and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), which transfers e-mail, FTP is an application protocol that uses the Internet's TCP/IP protocols. FTP is used to transfer Web page files from their creator to the computer that acts as their server for everyone on the Internet. It’s also commonly used to download programs and other files to your computer from other servers. As a user, you can use FTP with a simple command line interface (for example, from the Windows MS-DOS Prompt window) or with a commercial program that offers a graphical user interface. Your Web browser can also make FTP requests to download programs you select from a Web page. Using FTP, you can also update (delete, rename, move, and copy) files at a server. This technique of file exchange can be used by collectors of sexually explicit materials of trafficked victims.

5. Search engines:
They can contribute to the expansion of sexual exploitation. Search engines are becoming more sophisticated and powerful in indexing the content of cyberspace. As a result users seeking particular types of adult entertainment, women, children, locations, etc. can find it faster and with more precision.
6. Chat Rooms:
The most common means by which sexual predators contact children over the Internet is through chat rooms, instant messages and email. In fact, 89% of sexual solicitations were made in either chat rooms or instant messages and 1 in 5 youth (ages 10-17 years) has been sexually solicited online (JAMA, 2001). Considering that 25% of kids online participate in real time chat and 13 million use instant messaging, the risks of such children, either knowingly or unknowingly, interacting with a predator is alarming. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 chat rooms available to users world wide. Moreover those seeking to buy women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation use these rooms to exchange information about location and prices of enslaved women and children all over the world.
In one case, a thirty-seven-year-old German man living in Greece contacted a fourteen-year-old girl from Florida in a chat room. He followed her Internet communication with letters by mail and telephone calls. After a long time of corresponding, he convinced the girl to run out from Florida and to travel to Greece to work. A woman met her, gave her a programmed cell phone and drove her to a local airport. The girl flew to Ohio where a convicted child pornographer assisted her in getting a passport and leaving the United Sates. However, the Police were able to trace the girl by examining the e-mails saved on her computer at home. They found her in Greece where they also arrested the German gentleman. He was charged with abduction of a minor with malicious intent, sexual assault and exposing a minor to improper material. Investigation of his home revealed child pornography of other girls.
(7) Pornographic spam:
Spam, which is generally considered unsolicited commercial e-mail, makes up about half of all e-mail sent worldwide. Much of it is deceptive, and costs businesses billions of dollars each year.
II. Analysing the Existing Legislative Instruments and their Efficiency in Combating Human Trafficking
In fact, many countries have legislations under which perpetrators, distributors and peddlers of sexually explicit material may be prosecuted, trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation can be fought, even when such offences are facilitated through the medium of the Internet. However, the fundamental right to free communication and the right to secrecy of correspondence are intangible, but all too often, criminals misuse these rights to disguise the real nature of their activities.
The authorities and the police will always find it difficult to distinguish between these cases, and the fact that this takes place on the Internet certainly does not make matters easier for them. Hence there is a persisting need to give investigators more technical and financial resources and provide sound training on the subject. Even at national level it is no easy matter to deal with criminals who use the Internet, and it is all the more difficult if they are operating from abroad. Sentences may be passed in certain cases, but are rarely enforced in the countries in which such persons are active.
In most cases, the sole means open to the police is to send the incriminating evidence to their counterparts in another country via the usual Interpol or Europol channels. If the laws of that country permit, and if the actions are punishable, the perpetrator may be prosecuted. Children under 18 cannot give valid consent, and any recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation is a form of trafficking regardless of the means used.
Experts also underlined that there was a gap between cases concerning children and child pornography, clearly prohibited by most European laws, where Internet content providers had been asked to close Internet sites, and cases involving trafficked adults or mail order brides, where the laws were less clear and the actions taken less effective. Even with the preparation and adoption of adequate legislation, the importance of establishing adequate means of implementing such legislation, which otherwise would remain only a token gesture, remains crucial.
The difficulty in prosecution of crimes committed over the Internet is not so much an absence of specific legislation, but rather a difficulty in applying existing norms to a technology that did not exist at the time the legislation was drafted. The transient and intangible nature of the Internet, as well as the anonymity and secrecy that communications via the Internet permits make the identification of the author and/or intended recipient of an illicit communication, as well as the collection of evidence, much more difficult and elusive. This is one of the reasons why government authorities, especially in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, now tend to concentrate their legislative efforts towards adapting procedural and investigative tools to the specificities of the new technology.

A) European Efforts:...

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