Human trafficking has been an issue for as long as the modern world has been around. Like any other business, as the internet increased in popularity, they found ways to take advantage. A wider and more accessible audience, an opportunity to offer more services, streamlined delivery, and the anonymity of the internet, made it possible for this new kind of human trafficking, Cybertrafficking, to grow exponentially.
Cybertrafficking came into light in the early 2000s, before we fully knew the dangers of the internet. The internet gives these criminals a never-ending pool of victims; using social media, they can personalize attacks. Everything about us can be found on the internet if we aren’t careful. Just from one social media account, these criminals could know who our friends and family are, what our day to day lives look like, our interests, where we work or go to school, and who we interact with the most.
Virtual markets for Cybertrafficking allow criminals to do business globally, further expanding their reach, bringing them closer to your door. While they are harder to find now, previously you could find ads for their services on popular sites such as Craigslist or Backpage. Even the services they offer are expanding. Cybertrafficking is no longer just selling people anymore, they are also forcing people to perform in front of webcams or sell videos/images per the buyer requests. Of course, this makes it even harder to catch and stop these criminals.
Cybercrime legislation is not as developed as the internet and is left lagging behind, leaving gaps and gray areas for prosecutors. This is increasingly difficult as most of these crimes cross multiple borders; there are significant differences in cyber law between countries. Law enforcement also has to deal with cross border searches and seizures, and obtaining enough evidence to criminalize the perpetrators and find their real identities.
To help protect yourself from Cybertrafficking set all social media accounts to private, don’t share your location publicly, and don’t trust strangers online. However, if you do have to meet someone from the internet, do so in a busy public place. Be careful, stay safe.