EMPACT Hackathon Targets Online Human Traffickers

The 2023 EMPACT Hackathon took place from 18 to 22 September in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.

A recent EMPACT hackathon, organized by Europol, gathered experts and law enforcement officers to develop tools for identifying and tracking human traffickers recruiting victims online.

A recent hackathon organized by Europol, in conjunction with the EMPACT project, brought together over 100 law enforcement officers, data scientists, and other experts from across Europe to develop and test innovative tools and solutions to help identify and track human traffickers who are using online platforms to recruit victims.

The 2023 EMPACT Hackathon took place from 18 to 22 September in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. The hackathon focused on filling intelligence gaps in the recruitment of victims of the most frequently reported forms of human trafficking, namely sexual and labour exploitation.

Participants were able to access and analyze large datasets of information from social media platforms, dating apps, and other online sources to develop new insights into how traffickers are operating online and how to identify potential victims.

One of the key developments from the hackathon was the creation of a new tool that can automatically identify and track human trafficking victims on social media platforms. The tool uses machine learning to identify patterns in the behaviour and language of traffickers and their victims. It can also be used to track the movement of traffickers and victims across different social media platforms.

Another key development from the hackathon was the creation of a new database of human trafficking victims and suspects. The database is searchable by a variety of criteria, including name, age, nationality, and the type of trafficking involved. It can be used by law enforcement agencies to identify potential victims and suspects and to track the movement of trafficking networks.

In-Depth Scan – Scary Figures!

In their extensive investigation, authorities examined a total of 85 people’s usernames, delving into the intricacies of 371 platforms, encompassing a wide spectrum of online spaces, from social media and dating platforms to web forums, marketplaces, and online applications.

Additionally, they scrutinized 325 communication devices, which included phone numbers, mobile apps, email addresses, and fax numbers. As part of their commitment to combating human trafficking, authorities focused their attention on 26 online platforms that were suspected of involvement in this illicit activity.

Furthermore, the participants were able to identify and verify that 5 online platforms were indeed engaged in human trafficking. Similarly, the investigation extended to the digital domain of child protection, where authorities inspected 10 online platforms associated with child sexual abuse (CSAM) to ensure the safety of online communities.

A Success!

Overall, according to Europol’s press release, the EMPACT hackathon was a success, and the solutions developed at the hackathon are now being evaluated by Europol and its member states. Some of the solutions may be deployed in the future to help law enforcement agencies combat human trafficking.

The hackathon is one of many initiatives that Europol is undertaking to combat human trafficking online. Europol also works closely with its member states to develop and implement policies and strategies to prevent and prosecute human trafficking.

EMPACT Hackathon Targets Online Human Traffickers
EMPACT Hackathon in place – Image credit: Europol

Human Trafficking Online: A Growing Problem

Human trafficking is a global crime that affects millions of people every year. Traffickers exploit vulnerable people for sexual exploitation, forced labour, and other forms of abuse.

Traffickers increasingly use online platforms to recruit victims. Online platforms can be used to target potential victims with false promises of jobs, education, or relationships. Traffickers can also use online platforms to control and manipulate their victims.

The Role of Technology in Combating Human Trafficking

Technology can play a vital role in combating human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies can use technology to identify and track traffickers and victims, and to gather evidence of trafficking crimes.

Technology can also be used to develop tools and solutions to help prevent human trafficking. For example, social media platforms can use technology to identify and remove posts from traffickers.

The EMPACT hackathon is a positive example of how technology can be used to combat human trafficking. The solutions developed at the hackathon have the potential to make a real difference in the fight against this heinous crime.

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