AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sen. John Cornyn and multiple child advocate organizations met at Google Fiber on Tuesday to discuss the use of technology in fighting against child sex trafficking operations. The Senator has proposed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act which would pump more resources into law enforcement and other agencies to target such operations.
“We have not yet criminalized those who buy children for sex,” said Malika Saada Saar, the executive director of Rights4Girls. “The hope is we can use technology to go after buyers.”
While many children are trafficked with use of the Internet, Cornyn and organizations at Tuesday’s event said law enforcement can also use the Internet to get a step ahead, specifically targeting the demand side of trafficking, and not just the supply. Saada Saar mentioned the use of fake ads on websites commonly used for trafficking transactions to identify who is attempting to buy children.
“There will be an ad for an underage girl when in fact it is law enforcement on the other side of the ad.”
Technology such as photo DNA has also given a leg up for finding who a trafficked child may be and what part of the world from where they are missing.
Robert Almonte, United States Marshal for the Texas Western District, said more trafficked children are homegrown than the public might realize.
“Many of them are runaways, many of them are abandoned, but we have many, far too many children that come from the United States that fall victim to sex trafficking,” said Almonte.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and Digital Defenders of Children spoke about the use of hotlines and data to help provide analytics for sex trafficking operations and where they could be operating.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act stalled after concerns about language specific to abortion and the use of federal dollars. However, Cornyn said he is hopeful the senate will approve the bill when they returned to Washington on Monday.