Posted by on March 3, 2019

6 min read

I think it’s quite clear that the way in which we communicate has all gone the route of the internetEven our televisions are directly connected to the internet.  Recently receiving my bachelor’s in communications meant that I had to learn pretty much all the ways in which the world now communicates. The mediums in which we communicate are no longer just through newspaper, radio, television or the desktop computer. Businesses around the world know that in order to stay relevant and in touch with the masses, having your content online (more direct as social media platforms) is a must. A good chunk of our communication has been reduced to quick and easy access through mobile devices.  According to a 2016 report by Hitwise, that nearly 60% of online searches in the US are from mobile devices. Having the opportunity to live in now 3 different countries (my current being China) it is probably around the same percentage in many developed countries.  

Traffickers are always up to date in technology – often being one step ahead of law enforcement with being able to cover their tracks. Just twenty years ago, chat rooms were inundated with johns scouring to find their next victim. Now Classified advertising websites (like Craigslist) have found themselves tightening the reigns on their adult service ads to become ““socially responsible”.  Backpage (second behind Craigslist) was seized by the U.S.  Federal government in 2018 due to its blatant acts of sexual exploitation through its adult service ads. 


I have said this in previous podcasts that within the last 10 years those enslaved in human trafficking has gone from being around 27 million people to over 40 million people.  I don’t know about you but that is a significant jump. Social Media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have amassed millions if not billions of subscribers around the world. If you are not familiar with how traffickers gain access to their victims, it’s always within the largest form of direct communication. Traffickers are now using social media to target their victims. For you parents out there, this isn’t to scare you. This is to inform you that while your two-year-old is already more technologically advanced than we were at two, traffickers are already familiar with these platforms.  

So, what is Cyber Trafficking:  

Cyber‐trafficking refers to the use of cyber‐space (or the internet) for:   

  • the recruitment of victims;
  • advertisement of victims,  
  • advertisement of victims’ services or victims’ organs; and for
  • attracting clients.


When it comes to cyber trafficking, it all starts with some level of vulnerability. It’s often as simple as something that appears to be legit like false advertisement for work, or something that seems too good to be true like a modeling gig in a different city. There is a level of grooming that can take place that can cause a person to fall victim to these tactics. We are so tethered to our devices that it’s easy to 


A few days before Super Bowl 53 USA Today (written by Niquel Terry Ellis) published an article called:  

Sex trafficking at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta: Advocates, players fight against exploitation. There was a story that about a young woman that is all too familiar. Sierra Thompson at the age of 18 met a man on Instagram. The john began to flaunt a flashy lifestyle of cars, jewelry etc. Sierra was flown to Houston by the man and within one day of them meeting conversation, drugs and sex became an instant thing. That’s when Sierra’s life took a radical turn. Within day two the man had lured her into dancing at a strip club for money. Before finally escaping her pimp, Sierra spent three years being sold for sex in cities around the country, including a stint at the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Sierra now a survivor is also an abolitionist. She is now working with victim advocates, law enforcement officers, former NFL players and others to help break up the sex trafficking they say the event attracts. 


Human Trafficking happens every day especially in large metropolitan cities. However, events like the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star weekend can see an uptick in activity. After Super Bowl 51 (in 2017) I had the opportunity of interviewing Sam Hernandez, the Mobilization Director of Elijah Rising in Houston. Elijah Rising is a non- profit organization focused on ending sex trafficking in Houston. I asked Sam what the process was when the city of Houston was given the notice that the Super Bowl was coming to town. She told me that mobilization of volunteer teams and working with local law enforcement begins within a year out. The volunteer teams would go out to local businesses (like spas) and strip clubs to try and talk and rescue the women and girls. Law enforcement would set up stings operations to try and arrest johns caught up in the trafficking of women and girls. Sam told me that the volunteer team and the law enforcement operations were very successful.  

This could be said about this past Super Bowl in which the Atlanta Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced results of Human Trafficking Operation for SBLIII. The FBI announced the results of an 11-day effort by the Violent Crimes Against Children/Human Trafficking Program and Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation (or Match) Task Force. It was collaborated with over 25-local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and District Attorney’s Offices, along with 7 non-government organizations.  

The results were 169 Arrests including 26-traffickers and 34-individuals attempting to engage in sex acts with minors. And 9 Juvenile sex trafficking victims recovered (youngest was 14 years old) 


The efforts by the FBI goes to show the increased emphasis that the Federal Government is putting into eradicating the demand for sex and labor trafficking in the United States. 

Just in December of 2018 The US Congress passed a reauthorization of the nation’s cornerstone human trafficking legislation called the Trafficking Victims Protections Act.  the TVPA (as it is known) provides the legal foundation for the U.S. government to combat and prosecute human trafficking crimes, and it sets additional policy and provides essential resources to help prevent and respond to victimization.  


Before Super Bowl LIII several active NFL players decided to lend their status and voice for a campaign called It’s A Penalty. It’s a global campaign (created in 2014 by A21) centered on bringing professional athletes together before huge and global sporting events to bring awareness to eradicating human trafficking across the globe.  

Here is a snippet of the 2019 It’s A Penalty campaign:

We are also seeing an increase awareness by celebrities who are willing to raise their voice in solidarity with the many anti-slavery organizations in the Unites States and around the world. This was seen on a greater scale February 7th.   The nonprofit End it Movement put on a global Shine A Light On Slavery Campaign:  in which people, lawmakers, celebrities, sport figures drew a Red X on their hand and post a photo on their social media platforms.  

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