The Darkest Side of Social Media

A new tool signals the stealth recruitment of teens for sex-trafficking.

7/31/2021 3:03:00 PM

How a new app may help parents guard their children against sex trafficking by analyzing social media posts, explains MitziPerdue

A new tool signals the stealth recruitment of teens for sex-trafficking.

excels at detecting patterns, and he knew how to use it. In the space of a year, he had millions of accounts of potential victims to analyze.The results were revealing. “The computer began to spit out indicators of which kids traffickers would target,” says a pleased Martin.

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Images and Hashtags that Scream VulnerabilityMartin learned that specific kinds of images and hashtags help traffickers to decide which young people to target. Examples include:A young girl poses provocatively in a scanty bikini. “That would let the trafficker know that the girl probably didn’t have adult supervision monitoring her social media,” points out Martin.

She uses hashtags such as, #teenmodel or #scout me. “This lets the trafficker know she’d be vulnerable to promises of a modeling contract,” explains Martin.She uses the hashtag #sexy. “This is a very strong signal to traffickers that a girl is desperate for attention,” says Martin.

A Trafficker’s PlaybookAccording to Martin, once a trafficker has found a likely target, he’ll probably follow one of several tried-and-true playbooks. A common one is, he tells her he’s from a modeling agency and would like to take some sample pictures.

She goes to his studio, he takes some head shots, maybe he pays her, and she goes home feeling on top of the world. What she doesn’t know is, this was a ruse to establish trust. It was all about getting her to let her guard down.She returns, and this time he asks her for a more provocative pose. It isn’t too big an ask, and she agrees to it. He’s gradually getting her used to blurring the lines of what she would normally refuse.

Next, he asks to photograph her topless. She’s still convinced that she’s on her way to a great modelingcareerand complies.Now he wants naked pictures. He leads her to believe that if she’ll just take this one additional step, she’ll have the paradise career she yearns for.

Now he has a collection of totally compromising image. He tells her if she doesn’t allow sexually explicit pictures with men, he’ll show the pictures he already has to her parents, her school, and all her social media.Terrified, she complies. And so another girl is on her way to entering “the life.”

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Thwarting the ProcessMartin is working to thwart the process. He’s using the high-tech tools to find and warn girls and their parents in those cases where the girl’s social media is the equivalent of a red flag in front of a bull.The Radlee App is available on the App Store

Source: Roger Martin, used with permissionThe goal is to make vulnerable girls aware by sending them targeted messages that warn them not to fall for fake modeling jobs.A preventive approach available to parents and guardians right now is the iPhone app Radlee, available at the App Store. A parent can put in the girl’s name and Instagram information and the app will check whether the child has a profile that would attract a trafficker.

Further, Radlee can even tell if the young woman is already being contacted by someone who fits the profile of a trafficker. Armed with this information, the adult in the girl’s life can take steps to protect her.With the help of the financial institution UBS, and Humans Against Trafficking, Martin is also enlisting social media influencers to warn young people about the online scams that traffickers deploy.

Source: Roger Martin, used with Permission Read more: Psychology Today »

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