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Fighting Human Trafficking Through Technology



In this episode, our host Tiffany Xingyu Wang was joined by Nic McKinley, founder and CEO of the nonprofit intelligence organization DeliverFund. They discussed the modern explosion in human trafficking and how the organization leverages cutting-edge technology to fight it across private companies’ digital platforms

The extent of the human trafficking threat 

When looking at human trafficking, it is important to realize that it is an underground economy and it is almost impossible to get accurate statistics about the phenomenon, Nic explained. 

According to the most reliable figures available, those published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an 846% increase in suspected child trafficking cases was reported in the last five years. The data refers to minors only, leaving out all the human trafficking victims over 18 years old, offering an idea of the extent of the threat. 

How traffickers leverage digital platforms 

In Nic’s opinion, such a pervasive phenomenon is directly linked to the widespread use of smartphones, which are basically broadband-connected computers, and of the other technologies we implement in our daily lives. 

These tools are leveraged by human traffickers to expand their businesses and get in front of users, just like private companies do, turning modern slavery into a sales game. Therefore, every social media platform, every gaming platform and any other platform populated by both minors and adults has a human trafficking problem, whether they are going to admit it publicly or not. 

The impacts on brands’ image

When a case of modern slavery happens, the company that owns the platform traffickers used is held accountable. In fact, it is not uncommon for modern slavery victims to sue liable brands, like software companies, gaming platforms or hotel chains, because they facilitated, albeit unwillingly, the crimes that happened against them. 

Also, the negative public perception would not only damage the brand reputation but also bear financial repercussions and the loss of users concerned with their safety on those platforms. 

DeliverFund’s approach 

DeliverFund has quickly become the industry standard around fighting human trafficking commercially. The organization’s approach primarily focuses on helping the private industry keep traffickers from leveraging their platforms, working directly with over 100 law enforcement agencies around the United States, and a few international ones. 

The organization uses technical solutions like SAS technology in a cost-effective way by integrating into pre-existing chatbots, digital payment platforms and AI automation to enhance their prevention capabilities. They mapped out what the modern slavery market looked like and which were its points of vulnerability so that they could attack traffickers throughout the cycle of their activities, preventing human traffickers from getting on the platform in the first place. 

Ultimately, Nic highlighted, traffickers will just go to other platforms, but if the next platform does the same thing, and so does the next one, and so on so forth, eventually, human traffickers will be denied a whole piece of technical territory. 

So, by taking the matter to heart, both in the name of their users’ safety and their own image and trust, brands truly have the power to effectively counter the human trafficking threat across digital platforms. 

Watch the full interview below or listen to the Brand Safety Exchange podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Key Lessons To Amplify Your Brand’s Safety:

  • Recognize if your platform suffers from a human trafficking problem 
  • Implement cutting-edge technology to fight traffickers throughout the cycle of their activities
  • Rely on moderators or AI technologies that are specialized in the matter so that the phenomenon can be eradicated more effectively 
  • Universally adopt the same approach so that traffickers will be denied a whole piece of technical territory