Technology as a Tool in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Cheryl Benton
   Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Luis CdeBaca
   Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, The White House and Claire Schmidt, Director of Programs, THORN
Washington, DC
July 24, 2013

NARRATOR: Welcome to the U.S. Department of State. This is Conversations with America, a discussion between top State Department officials and NGO leaders, where you can watch and participate in the exchange of ideas with moderator Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Public Affairs.

MS. BENTON: Hello. I’m Cheryl Benton, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Public Affairs, and I’d like to welcome you to Conversations with America. Today, we are here to discuss the role of technology in the fight against human trafficking. I’d like to introduce the experts who are joining me today for this discussion.

We are privileged to have with us Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House; and Claire Schmidt, Director of Programs at THORN. Thank you all so much for participating in this program.

Trafficking in persons, also known as human trafficking and modern slavery, is a crime that undermines basic human rights and affects as many as 27 million persons around the globe. People fall victim to human trafficking for many, many reasons. Some may simply be seeking a better life, a promising job, or even an adventure. Others may be poverty stricken and forced to migrate for work, or they may be marginalized by their society. Those who work to combat trafficking have begun to harness technology as a tool to raise public awareness, stop traffickers, and help victims.

The United States Government is committed to the global fight against contemporary forms of slavery and has shown so by appointing Luis CdeBaca as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Ambassador, welcome. You were sworn into this position in May of 2009. Could you tell us a little bit about some of your top priorities and why the connection between technology and human trafficking is important for us to consider?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, first of all, thank you, Cheryl. I think that the notion of Conversations with America really goes to the heart of why we think that we have to use new technological platforms in this fight against modern slavery. My office was created at the end of the Clinton Administration and was taken on as something that was a quintessentially American value by the Bush Administration. We’ve now taken it hopefully to an even more intense fight under President Obama, and I think it just shows that you’ve got administrations that don’t always see eye to eye on things, but human trafficking and the fight against modern slavery, making it through those transition periods – I think it shows this is a bipartisan fight, it’s quintessentially an American fight.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why technology is so important, because if we look at the original American fight against slavery to do away with the chattel slavery, legal slavery, where not only was somebody owned, but their children were owned, people could take a lease out on somebody, people could take insurance out on the person they owned, you had to register your slaves at the courthouse. I mean, it’s just – when you think about not just the effect on families, the effect on people who lived in slavery, but the way that society was all arranged around slavery in this country for 300 years, and suddenly, the telegraph, the steamship, and the railroad come and people who had escaped slavery can suddenly be in your town giving a lecture about what had happened to them. Editorials and stories suddenly are showing up in newspapers because this communications technology of the telegraph suddenly brings it into your home, and for the first time, people in the United States started confronting the reality of slavery. It wasn’t something that just happened over there down in the South. It was – these people just came to town on this train and they’re telling me what the horrors of slavery are.

Disruptive technology is not a new thing. It’s just that these technologies are new. But I think that we have to look at the disruptive technologies of the first abolitionist movement to figure out what this modern abolitionist movement does. And you’ve got two people here who are working on that who really are on the cutting edge, so we’re just so excited about being able to harness their goals and their expertise in this joint American fight.

MS. BENTON: Very good. Thank you, Ambassador. I wanted to ask Todd, you have truly taken a leadership role on this issue in the technology field. Can you tell us a little bit more about the anti-trafficking work that your office is doing at the White House? And welcome.

MR. PARK: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me over.

MS. BENTON: Absolutely.

MR. PARK: It’s a pleasure to be here. I just wanted to also thank Ambassador CdeBaca for his incredible leadership in this fight, and it’s such a tremendous privilege and honor to be partnered with you and the whole team here in this critically important movement.

So as you know, the President has challenged everyone in his Administration to redouble their energies in the fight against modern-day slavery. And so taking up that challenge, what my CTO office did last year, working with the First Lady’s Office, the Council on Women and Girls, is we convened a workshop at the White House where we invited about 50 amazing people – trafficking survivors, advocates, amazing tech innovators from Silicon Valley, law enforcement to brainstorm ways that tech can be used to fight trafficking. As I think everybody knows, unfortunately, traffickers have been very effective using technology themselves to actually scale trafficking. And what the President wants to do is actually turn the tables on the traffickers and use tech to fight back.

So this group came up with amazing ideas. The President subsequently, a couple months later at his landmark speech at Clinton Global Initiative, issued a public challenge to turn the table on traffickers using tech. And people like Claire and Thorn Foundation and others have just done phenomenal work, phenomenal work in this space building tools that help identify what online advertisements are more likely to be minors so that law enforcement can actually prioritize their efforts to rescue victims, helping victims connect to services that can help them, all kinds of new ways to actually take the fight to the traffickers and help victims use tech to really scale the fight against trafficking to new heights. So it’s incredibly exciting to see.

One of our favorite laws of the universe is something called Joy’s Law. It was coined by the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Bill Joy, who’s a legendary figure in Silicon Valley. And one of the things he said, no matter who you are, you have to remember that most of the smartest people in the world work for somebody else, right? (Laughter.) So our strategy hasn’t been “Okay, I’m going to think really hard and my team’s going to, like, build the tools ourselves.” We said, “You know what? Actually, let’s ask all the other smart people in the world who know a lot more about this than we do, right, to mobilize their energies and team up and fight back.” And I think Thorn and the work that Thorn’s doing is a perfect case example of what happens when you do that.

MS. BENTON: Great. Thank you. And so I wanted to turn to Claire over at Thorn. First of all, is that an acronym?

MS. SCHMIDT: No, it is not an acronym. We see ourselves as the protectors of children who are the most vulnerable members of our society, and we protect them the same way that a Thorn protects a rose, so --

MS. BENTON: That is great.

MS. SCHMIDT: -- that’s what it means.

MS. BENTON: That’s great. So just tell me a little bit about the work that you do at Thorn because I know you’re here meeting with some organizations in D.C.

MS. SCHMIDT: Mm-hmm, yes. So we have been around since 2009, and when we were founded, we started as more of an awareness-raising organization and we focused on letting people know that slavery and trafficking were still happening in this country, which still surprises a lot of people.

But in March 2010, we had a big meeting of technology companies up in the Bay Area and we told them about what was happening, and we said some of your tools are being used to facilitate this crime. How can we use your tools and how can you use your tools to fight back? And ever since that meeting, we – people were very passionate about getting involved and really wanting to help. And ever since then, we’ve convened about 25 to 30 tech companies up in the Bay Area about twice a year, and we bring them information about how trafficking is changing, how child sex trafficking in particular is changing and how traffickers are sort of evolving the way that they use technology. And they’re very, very excited to sort of have that, like, field understanding of the crime.

And at the same time, we bring them together with one another to share best practices, and then we ask them – in the same way that Todd mentioned, we ask them to brainstorm, okay, where do you see these technologies going and how could they be used to fight back, how can we get one step or two steps ahead of the traffickers, and how can we use technology to help survivors reach out for help? And so a big part of our work has been convening those task force meetings over time and then using the findings and learnings to inform program development.

MS. BENTON: Wow, that’s pretty exciting. So in order to enslave their victims, traffickers constantly change how they operate and have learned how to utilize the tools available to them, including technology, to target, recruit, and exploit victims.

First, I think it would be helpful for our viewers to know, what are the most common ways traffickers target their victims? And I’d like to ask Todd to tell us what steps can we do to make it more difficult for traffickers to do this.

MR. PARK: Well, so, technology can be used in all kinds of ways to help. I mean, I have to stress, though – and this is kind of odd coming from a chief technology officer – but I don’t think technology by itself solves any problem, right. It’s been very rare in my experience that it actually has.

MS. BENTON: It’s (inaudible.)

MR. PARK: (Laughter.) Yes, I know it is. Technology can be a very useful aid, right, in the hands of victims, in the hands of victims services, activist organizations, law enforcement, to help fight trafficking. But it’s very important to think of technology as a tool and not as a solution, right.

So that being said, it can actually be used in all kinds of ways to disrupt the traffickers, right. And so one example actually is work that Claire should talk more about, to help law enforcement be equipped with a tool that actually morphs and shifts and changes as traffickers shift their behavior to basically help begin identify online through the online advertisements that traffickers use to exploit their victims, right, who might actually be, for example, a child, right. That law enforcement should prioritize for rescue, right, and help build cases across multiple ads that they can use to take traffickers out, right.

Another example is educating children about the ways they might be exploited, right, and helping them actually be better prepared for that, and helping victims actually connect using technology, right, in very effective, scalable, secure ways, connect to help that can actually help get them out of their situation and help them get on the path they really want to be on.

So a lot of the same characteristic technology that traffickers have used to exploit their victims, right, the ability to scale or the ability to actually find folks online, right – those characteristics actually can be used to scale the fight against the traffickers, but again, in the hands of law enforcement, in the hands of victims, in the hands of activist organizations, in the hands of victim services, who are absolutely critical, right, to be partnered up with the technology for technology to really work.

MS. BENTON: Right. Ambassador, what types of efforts has the anti-trafficking community fostered to harness technology as a tool to fight trafficking?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I think there’s been several things, and it does break down, as Todd suggests, I mean, that notion of everything from the very basic. I think that we’re down to the point where we just assume everybody has a computer and so databases aren’t thought of as being cutting-edge technology. But I remember when I was in the DA’s office back in the ’80s, and suddenly our ability to just keep track of our cases on a database, not a network online or anything, we just networked in our own office. That was – again, that was transformative.

And the notion of being able to do that with an anti-trafficking unit in a developing country, so they actually know where the victims are, what’s happening in the court room. Even something that’s as what we would think of as rudimentary, not cutting edge, as a good database, is something that we’re trying to make sure that we can get out to the field.

But also that notion of the linkages – traffickers are quick to exploit technology because it allows them to help find a market. They can find the men for whom they’re going to be offer prostitutes, whether it’s child prostitutes or adults, on various online fora. And then looking at how that could be disrupted, whether it’s through the service provider themselves or whether it’s governmental action, or whether it’s some combination of all of that together to put pressure on that so it’s harder for them to find the market. If it’s harder for them to find the market, they then have to do other things and then they’re out in the open where law enforcement can find them.

So part of it is with any kind of organized crime fight, you want to figure out what their patterns are and then how you disrupt those patterns, because that gives you a few months – not forever – it gives you a few months in which while they’re trying to establish new patterns, that’s when you can pick them off. And I think that that’s one of the things that we’re seeing. It’s incredible to me to see even something – again, we think of cell phones as being kind of normal, many of us here in America, and yet the notion of cell phones as a disruptive technology for the first time.

We’ve had people who are able to call out of a factory in Jordan where they’re being exploited and abused and they’re calling back to Bangladesh and saying what happened to them? And then the Bangladesh, their families go to an NGO or a labor organization who then talk to us because we’ve got folks in out embassies who have those relationships. And so you’re talking about within six hours you go from a call for help to the U.S. Government going back to the Jordanian Government.

I mean, taking that around the world as opposed to languishing for years wondering if anybody cares. And that’s what technology can do. It can speed things up in some pretty amazing ways.

MS. BENTON: Wow. So Claire, can you tell us a little bit about you’d mentioned earlier that you have brought tech companies together in the bay area. So can you talk to a little bit about the Tech Task Force that you work with at Thorn?

MS. SCHMIDT: Yeah. So the Tech Task Force is made up of about 25-30 tech companies – Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, AOL – there are a number of major tech companies that are involved and working very closely with us on a daily basis. But then we also have brought in smaller startups because one value that we think that we bring to this is getting companies who have never thought about trafficking, have never thought about child sexual exploitation at all to think about it for the first time and to see how their tools and platforms could actually be used to exploit children – and not to scare them, but just to say here are some of the ways in which Microsoft and Google and some of the bigger companies have already thought about addressing this problem, and we want them to share that knowledge with you. Because while some of these companies may be competitors in sort of a normal business sense, they’re not in this area at all.

And then one example of the kind of information that we share with them, as opposed to just facilitating information sharing between them is we recently – or we’re still in the midst of conducting a survivor survey, a nationwide domestic minor sex trafficking survivor survey in which we ask these individuals how technology was or was not used to recruit them, whether they met their trafficker online, what platforms were being used, how technology may have been used to sort of advertise them in the sort of online forums and advertising spaces that Ambassador CdeBaca mentioned, and if so, which sites and how were the advertisements worded. And then ultimately whether technology played a role in their escape at all, and if not, how could it have? Because it’s really important to bring the survivor’s voice into this conversation and to let these major tech companies hear about how their platforms may have been used, so that they can start to address that proactively. So that’s just one example of the way that we work with those companies.

MS. BENTON: That’s great. I know, Ambassador, you were talking about ways that you’re flushing this out because of technology has helped you. Are we making real good progress? Are we making progress? How has that played out so far?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think we’re making progress. I’ll get back to you when we make real good progress.

MS. BENTON: Okay. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Twenty-seven million victims around the world, and while we’ve had an increase in victims identified over the last year – 20 percent increase – you’re still talking about only 47,000 people identified worldwide by governments as victims. Now NGOs, service providers, others, are working with other people. But that is by any stretch of the imagination a ridiculously low number.

I think that it’s perhaps in some ways the other side of technology that will allow us to shrink that bigger number. When we’re looking at something like where people can go, consumers can go, and say what’s the life that I’m living, what do I own, what do I buy, what do I eat, and thanks to the folks at the economics faculty at Berkeley and others, the algorithm at slavery footprint will actually tell you a rough estimation of how many slaves does it take? How many people in forced labor around the world does it take to sustain the lifestyle that each of us lives?

I work every day to fight modern slavery and I can’t tell you where the coffee comes from, where the cocoa comes from, the cotton in my shirt – I don’t know those things. And if I don’t know them, then most consumers won’t.

MS. BENTON: Surely don’t know.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: But I think that this notion of Slavery Footprint is a perfect example then of a platform that allows consumers not only to find that out, make it personal, but then also to circle back to the companies and say I care. I want to know if the precious metals that make my cell phone work without overheating, if those were mined by children and enslaved villagers in the Eastern Congo. And the tech company then might think, oh, well, we don’t deal in commodities. We don’t have servants and we aren’t going to prostitutes, so we’re fine. Well, that tech company is using that platform of the mobile telephone or the handheld computing that probably does have sourcing of some of the minerals from slavery in it.

And so only through us shining a light on that, I think, can the end users – the companies – can then start saying, well, we aren’t going to source from them. So it’s a cultural change. It’s rejecting the demand for commercial sex; it’s reflecting the demand for this cheap labor. But we can only know that with information. I think that’s one of the places where technology helps to close that information gap between consumer and what’s happening out in the field.

MR. PARK: Just to build on that, it’s – I actually didn’t know the magnitude of the trafficking problem until I scrubbed into it last year. And then the moment I learned about it, my head exploded, and I said I’m going to do everything I possibly can, everything my team possibly can to be of any help we possibly can to end this evil. Right? And the experience that I had is whenever I expose someone else to knowledge of the issue, their heads explode and they get highly mobilized. Right?

So the challenge is not getting people to care, right? Because they care the second they know about it. I think challenge is getting people to know about it, right? And so awareness of this issue is globally and nationally still quite low. And one of the things we’re really interested in amplifying is the use of technology to help get the word out about this evil because I think that will directly result in exponentially more people mobilizing in all kinds of ways to fight and end the evil. So and again kind of true to form, like, we’re not going to do that ourselves. (Laughter.) We’re actually – we’re going to work with people like Thorn, et cetera, to mobilize a whole (inaudible) of folks, who can actually get the word out. But I think that’s going to generate tremendous returns in terms of success in the fight.

And I wonder whether, as well, that that notion of not just – we always talk about new technology, but a lot of what Thorn’s doing for instance is going into folks who have technology and saying how do we tweak what you’re doing so that it can help this particular population.

My – we had folks that were in a shrimp processing factory in Thailand on a visit, and of course they talked to some of the workers and they said, oh yeah, we always love it when the Americans come because they tell us two days before that you’re coming and then we’re not supposed to bring our kids to work. So that’s some issues on itself.

But one of the things that was amazing is that the shrimp exporting industry, which is like a $6 billion industry had been saying, well, we can’t trace down to the boat. We’re selling shrimp and we know there’s these boat captains that are enslaving people, but we can’t trace all the way back down. And my folks were in the factory and they looked over and here’s somebody hitting the side of the little cartons that each of the shrimp processers were having to clean, hitting that with a laser and bar coding. And so Alice went over and she’s like, “What’s the barcode for?” And they’re like, “Oh, we have to do this in case there’s a health issue.”

And so the very people who had been saying we can’t trace it back to the boat and hold that – to hold the U.S. company accountable for what that boat captain did to the crew, at the same time you can trace that bag of shrimp all the way back to the boat, if you’re looking at health issues.

Now I think part of it is because the health issues not only are you going to have the regulation of the health ministries – whether the U.S. or other countries are going to – if there’s an outbreak. But then there’s also going to be liability issues. And so the notion of getting the plaintiffs lawyers involved has provided an incentive for them to use that technology to be able to trace. Same thing with the spinach, you get these e-coli outbreaks and they’ll tell you even which quadrant of the field the spinach came from.

But they’ll tell you, oh, well we don’t know who the crew leader was. So I think that part of it is we have to figure out this technology that’s there, it’s already being used, and then how do we incorporate the human trafficking into it as well.

MS. BENTON: That’s right. Claire, where do you see the role of technology having the greatest impact in efforts to combat human trafficking? I direct that to you, but obviously everyone can jump in.

MS. SCHMIDT: Yeah, I think one of the programs that I’m most excited about is the one that Todd mentioned, which would really allow law enforcement to use their time as effectively and efficiently as possible in trying to rescue children who are being exploited. And actually, as you mentioned, it’s using an existing technology in a different way.

So we’re working with a tech company that does semantic analysis for the Department of Defense, and we’re actually just deploying that same technology on the online classified sites and the escort services section of those sites where children and adults alike are being advertised. And the real question that we asked is: Can an algorithm really detect an ad that is more likely to be a minor? And then in some ways surface that to law enforcement so that they have that information right away and can act upon it? So the ability would be for law enforcement to rescue victims more quickly.

And so I think that’s one way in which technology is really essential, because it allows this sort of messy, unstructured dataset to be organized and structured and then acted upon, which is the most important part. So yeah, we’re really excited, and that’s sort of in the testing phases right now. I mean, we’ve seen some good initial results, and so we’re excited about that.

MS. BENTON: Oh, very good. We’ve received a number of questions from DipNote, which is the Department’s official blog, on the topic today, so I wanted to just get right to those.

Rachel from Washington, D.C. asks: Do you think programs like USAID-funded MTV EXIT and others which raise awareness of how young people can prevent themselves from being trafficked, go far enough and engage the right audiences to make a difference long-term?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I can certainly – I mean, part of it is they had me out on stage at their big concert in Burma last year, so since I’ve been in front of --

MS. BENTON: You’re on MTV?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Exactly. I’ve been in front of those 60,000 people or whatever with them. Not only is it a great concert, but I think it showed the seriousness with which MTV has been approaching this. What they’ve decided to do is early on they had some concerts, they had some awareness raising, but they had no idea whether or not anything was coming of it. And so what they’ve done since then is they’re using the gathered folks to have people texting to a particular number so they can capture 50,000 phone numbers, so that they can do the kind of follow-on research as to is somebody coming to one of the concerts, or is somebody coming to one of the outreach events, then going to have an impact six weeks later or six months later, et cetera.

And so that notion of using technology to start to do the monitoring and evaluation and seeing that a lot of the kids that come to these events are – even six months later are still interested in and active in the fight against human trafficking. I don’t think that the concerts and the outreach was as sticky in the early years, and I think that they’ve been not just using technology, but they’ve been using a lot of follow-up work. It’s worked with the governments, it’s worked with ASEAN, which is the regional forum in Southeast Asia. And to their credit, they haven’t expanded.

I think that’s one of the things that’s so important, whether it’s for an NGO, for government efforts, et cetera, is to figure out when is scaling necessary, and when should you resist it. And I think that by MTV keeping its focus on Southeast Asia, they were able to go into Burma then in a way that built upon what was happening in Thailand, and since a lot of the victims in Thailand are Burmese, the work that they’re doing in northern Burma now with people about how to protect yourself, that’s having a spillover effect in Thailand. If they had decided now we need to go into Russia because we’ve got a Russian pop star who wants to be involved, now we are going to go into Africa, because we’ve got all these singers who want to do MTV EXIT concerts – which people are knocking on their door constantly, and I think that it’s been good that they’ve resisted that. Now we have to figure out how to – we do need to scale it, but it’s figuring out when the right time to scale it is so that you can actually make that kind of impact.

But it’s USAID’s project, not the State Department’s, but it’s something that I think that we as an Administration should be very proud of, because I think they are making a big difference. When you get a Burmese general up on stage dancing with a couple of young girls with guitars, you realize how fast the cultural shift is happening.

MS. BENTON: Okay. Yeah. Good. So how can the public assist in the fight against human trafficking? And I wanted to start with you, Ambassador, because your role at the State Department has you interface a lot throughout the world, and then I want to get Claire and Todd to jump in on that.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I think two things very quickly. I mean, first of all, everybody should go and take the test. This is something that’s only about 15 minutes. The Canadians are ahead of us right now on people who start to take the survey and then actually complete it because the folks that run Slavery Footprint are able to do the analytics on who goes on the site, looks at things, and then doesn’t take the survey, who starts the survey and then doesn’t end it, et cetera, and I hate to see the fact that the Canadians are completing the surveys at a higher rate than the Americans. Trust me, I hear about this from our Canadian diplomatic –

MS. BENTON: Right. Oh, I bet. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: -- colleagues. So that is kind of the let’s beat Canada on taking the surveys, but also it’s not just knowing what your slavery footprint is; it’s the doing something about it. And if somebody is in the medical professions, you can volunteer to help the anti-trafficking movement in your community by giving medical services. Dentists, dental is one of the things that is usually the highest priority for folks coming out of slavery, because they haven’t been able to get that kind of ongoing care that you need whether it’s dental, gynecological, et cetera.

But also, somebody’s who’s a lawyer can volunteer helping people not just in court, but also with financial planning. If somebody’s in the money business, they can help teach people how to do a budget. I mean, there’s – anything that any of us do, we can do that for the benefit of trafficking victims. And I think that it’s getting involved with your local service providers, getting involved with your local churches, and then harnessing whatever it is that makes you special or makes you interesting and available for this type of service. Put it to work for the trafficking victims, walk with them as they become survivors.

MS. SCHMIDT: I would also add I think it’s really important that people just get informed about the facts about how trafficking is playing out in this country and around the world and what some of the realities are, the average age of entry into the sex trade, who these individuals are, and how they sort of get brought into the life, and so – and then telling other people about it, and it’s sort of – I’ve found that I’ve had some really interesting conversations with people who had no idea, which then mobilized them to get involved in different ways.

And I would also say there are so many organizations doing incredible work, and each of them need something different from the public. We just spent the last two days at an organization here in D.C. called Courtney’s House, and they’re doing incredible work providing direct services to survivors, and they need things like clothes and shoes and metro cards and stuff like that, and so it could be as small as foregoing your expensive cup of coffee one day and instead using it to buy someone a metro card. So I think just getting informed, doing the research about the issue and educating other people and then – and figuring out which organizations resonate with you in your area or otherwise and doing what they need help with.

MS. BENTON: Very good. We’re actually getting to the end of the program, but I do have a question. Who is the target trafficking – now, who are the victims? I mean, is there a particular population? Is there a particular age range? Is there a particular ethnic group that is the target of traffickers? Or is this an equal opportunity offender?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I think that because trafficking is really the combination of vulnerability and greed and cruelty, the vulnerabilities often take the same forms. The vulnerabilities are often somebody is an ethnic minority or a – somebody from the margins of society. There’s gender issues, there’s immigration or language issues that render them vulnerable.

So here in the United States, it could be a newly arrived immigrant that doesn’t know how things work, that’s vulnerable because of that, or it could be a child who is in an abusive home who wants so desperately to get out and to have some other meaning in his or her life, that when someone comes and says, “Come with me, I love you, oh, and you need to do this for me,” that they’re vulnerable to that. So I think we see victims in the United States who are white, who are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, we see people who are men, women, adults, children. And I think that one of the things is to try to figure out – this is why I think it’s wonderful that we have groups that work with immigrants who work with trafficking victims. We have groups that work with American citizens who work with trafficking victims, some who say, “Well, I want to work with children, and that’s where I find my group best used,” others that say, “I want to work with adults.” All of that together becomes a movement, and I think that all of that together then allows us not to overlook a victim when we see them.

People were amazed a few years ago when the Justice Department arrested some folks in Kansas for enslaving some white men on a farm, because the notion of a white man who spoke English as being vulnerable in America is not something that people were thinking about, but these men were schizophrenic, these men had a mental illness, and it rendered them vulnerable. So I think we have to look through our own assumptions, find that vulnerability, because unfortunately there was a trafficker who found that vulnerability.

MS. BENTON: Absolutely. That’s a very good thought.

Well, this is my least favorite part of the program, and it’s actually time to conclude this session of Conversations with America. Beginning with Ambassador CdeBaca, would you just share with us your final thoughts, and then I’d like to go to Claire and to Todd as we wrap this segment up.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, first, my final thought is I want to thank Claire and Todd. The work that we’ve seen from Thorn as kind of the representative of civil society, and this is something that cannot be done by government alone. It has to be done by government, because only government can punish the traffickers as they deserve, but it’s society coming together, rejecting the demand for commercial sex, rejecting the demand for these cheap goods, and saying, “We want something better.” And I think that that’s got to be outside as well as inside of the government.

And Todd kind of, as the stand-in for the entire White House, I mean, we have had such great support from the White House from President Obama on down, and that’s given, I think, lift not just to the State Department’s efforts, but to the EEOC, to the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, everybody coming together and harnessing their jurisdiction in a new way to be able to work on behalf of the vulnerable. I work for a government that actually pays me to help free slaves. What better can you say than that?

MS. BENTON: It’s pretty amazing.

Todd, could you share your final thoughts with us?

MR. PARK: This is a fight we can win. It’s a fight we can win, it’s a fight we must win. And my hope, the hope of all of us is that it’s a defining characteristic of what our generation did. All of our generations here who inhabit our country and planet right now is that we band together across the public sector, the private sector, the citizens sector, the academic sector, the tech sector, every sector, the faith sector to stop this evil and end it. It’s a big fight, it’s a challenging fight, but just in the year that I’ve been working on this, just meeting incredible people like Ambassador CdeBaca and Claire and so many others, it’s a fight I know we can win, and we will.

MS. BENTON: Well, very good.


MS. SCHMIDT: Yeah. I mean, I would echo what both of them have said, and also I think it’s really important if you’re working in this space to just think about how to best collaborate with other organizations, because we don’t want to be doing the same work that someone else is doing and duplicating efforts. I think it’s really important to share information and share insights, and that’s a big part of what drives the work that we do, and I think it’s critical to being able to fight back.

MS. BENTON: Well, good. Well, I’d like to thank Ambassador CdeBaca, Todd Park, and Claire Schmidt for sharing their work and their knowledge with us. I’d also like to thank each of you for joining us today. We hope that Conversations with America will continue to inform citizens about the Administration’s efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century. We look forward to engaging with you again soon. Thank you.