University of Southern California USC

About the Initiative

The Technology and Human Trafficking Initiative is a project of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy created to study the current use and broader implementation of information and communication technologies in the international fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

CCLP Director Geoffrey Cowan, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons & Alec Ross, Senior Advisor to Secretary Clinton.

The project began at a June 2010 meeting CCLP Director Geoffrey Cowan convened in Washington, D.C., at the urging of Alec Ross, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser for Innovation, and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Justice, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the United Nations joined leaders from the technology field, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academia to discuss the use of technology to address trafficking.

The meeting set into motion research initiatives in the Mekong Subregion (including Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam), Haiti, and the United States. An absence of technological solutions for information sharing among anti-trafficking organizations inspired further study into potential uses of technology in this field. A partnership between the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and CCLP developed prototype software designed to detect possible cases of online sex trafficking activity, particularly cases involving underage victims. Together, the group conducted advanced research on data mining, computational linguistics, and mapping tools to monitor trafficking on social networking and online classified sites.

Principal Investigator, Research Director

Mark Latonero is the Research Director at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.

His research focuses on emerging communication technology and social change. Mark’s recent work examines technology and human rights and the use of social media during crises and emergencies.

He has published in such academic journals as Information, Communication & Society, Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management, and Communication Research. His research has been covered by the Los Angeles Times, Congressional Quarterly, and CNN International.

Mark received his Ph.D. from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and was a postdoctoral research scholar at the London School of Economics. He is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Twitter: @latonero

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Research Team

“The Rise of Mobile” (2012)

Jennifer Musto, Ph.D., Co-Investigator
Zhaleh Boyd, MA, Research Manager
Ev Boyle, MSc, Global Research Fellow
Amber Bissell, Kari Gibson, MA, and Joanne Kim, Law Student Fellows

“Human Trafficking Online” (2012)

Genet Berhane, J.D., Law Fellow
Ashley Hernandez, Research Assistant
Tala Mohebi, MA, Research Associate
Lauren Movius, Ph.D., Research Associate