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Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society: General Overview, Emerging Innovations, and Philippines Case Study

68 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2015  

Mark Latonero

Data & Society Research Institute; USC Annenberg School of Communication

Bronwyn Wex

University of Southern California - School of International Relations

Meredith Dank

The Urban Institute

Date Written: March 6, 2015

Abstract

This research report is the first to investigate the relationship between technology and labor trafficking. New information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become an integral part of the networks that underpin labor trafficking in the 21st Century. Yet little research exists on the impact of technology in exacerbating or addressing the isolation, fraud, force, and/or coercion so often at the heart of trafficking cases. There is a lack of evidence-based research on any relationship between technology and labor trafficking either within or across national borders. To effectively intervene in labor trafficking, the impact of technology needs to be by policy makers, governments, NGOs, researchers, and the private sector.

Throughout the world, the rapid diffusion of technologies, such as social media, mobile devices, and the Internet, is impacting social, economic, and political life at an unprecedented scale. We live in a “network society” where technology and the flow of information are crucial forces of global social change. The network perspective helps us examine labor trafficking in a new way – not only as an economic, regulatory, or legal problem but as an issue driven by the technologies connecting networks of actors.

This project found that technology provides a crucial infrastructure for an array of both positive and negative social interactions surrounding labor trafficking. The Philippine case study demonstrates how individuals are incorporating technology into systems of trust, for example, going online to search for information about jobs, employers, and recruiters. Yet the adoption of new technologies can produce unexpected points of vulnerability and new gaps in information. In unscrupulous online recruitment, traffickers are able to exploit the vulnerabilities of job seekers through greater access to or control over information. Social isolation is exacerbated when mobile phones are confiscated or online access is restricted by employers. The research also includes technology and labor trafficking in global supply chains and disaster and crisis situations. Recommendations and guiding principles are offered for the government, NGO, academic, and private sectors.

Keywords: technology, ICT, human trafficking, labor, labor trafficking, exploitation, networks, supply chains, policy,

Suggested Citation

Latonero, Mark and Wex, Bronwyn and Dank, Meredith, Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society: General Overview, Emerging Innovations, and Philippines Case Study (March 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2574676 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2574676

Mark Latonero (Contact Author)

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
New York,, NY New York 10011
United States

USC Annenberg School of Communication ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Bronwyn Wex

University of Southern California - School of International Relations ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Meredith Dank

The Urban Institute ( email )

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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