“It’s Y2K Pimpin’” (Online Sex Trafficking) – Introduction

Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. It is a serious problem that occurs in many different forms, including sex. The United States has recognized this problem and has taken various steps to help protect against human trafficking. For example, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, enacted in 2000, provides tools to combat trafficking in persons both worldwide and domestically. In addition, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describes sex trafficking as “a modern-day form of slavery,” and in 2000, sex trafficking finally became a “serious violation of Federal law.” Although there are many forms of trafficking, this blog will focus on sex trafficking, specifically online sex trafficking.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Acts (TVPA) define “severe forms of trafficking” as:

i) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or,

ii) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

In the TVPA’s definition, the term “commercial sex act” means “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given or received by any person.” Having recognized that traffickers use psychological as well as physical coercion and bondage, TVPA defines coercion to include “threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.”

The majority of sex trafficking victims are women and girls, although men and boys can be victims too. Victims are forced into various forms of commercial sexual exploitation, including: “prostitution, pornography, stripping, live-sex shows, mail-order brides, military prostitution, and sex tourism,” with the most exploitive forms of commercial sex operations being prostitution and pornography.

In the past, the most common patterns for luring victims into situations of sex trafficking included: “a promise of a good job in another country; a false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation; being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, or boyfriends; and being kidnapped by traffickers.” While these situations are still being used by traffickers, the Internet has become a very popular avenue for sex traffickers. Not only do many traffickers meet their victims on the internet, but they also use the internet to sell them as well. Using the Internet is an easier and more efficient way for traffickers to find and sell their victims. In addition, much more difficult for law enforcement agencies to regulate their actions online, and with the anonymity of the web, many pimps involved in trafficking feel more protected.

While human trafficking is not primarily conducted via the virtual world, with the increasing use of the Internet for everything, online human trafficking is becoming a problem. Using online sites such as Craigslist (not so much anymore) and Backpage, traffickers are able to advertise their victims for sex, labor, or anything else they want to sell them for. Congress and Federal Courts have discussed some of the issues regarding the use of these websites, including how First Amendment protections come into play; and an analysis of the pros and cons of banning the adult content sections of these websites has been debated.

With all the recent news regarding the Craigslist adult content section, society is becoming more aware of the growing problem of online sex trafficking. Organizations have been formed to help protect victims, as well as to educate society about the potential dangers involved with communicating online. In January of this year, Second Life opened a multi-media exhibit that allowed visitors to “learn about the dark underworld where people are bought and sold, living lives as abused and dehumanized slaves.” The exhibit not only served to provide information about human trafficking, but it also placed the visitor inside the world of human trafficking “to experience a small sampling of the hardships faced by victims.” (Don’t think Second Life has only been helpful…more to come about different experiences on Second Life, such as the Human Trafficking Mansion, where avatars could go to role play, whether they wanted to be the captured victim or the powerful pimp/rapist.)


~ by natalielaw on October 27, 2010.

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