Tech Against Trafficking Summit: Leveraging Technology to Eradicate Forced Labor

Photo by shansekala on iStock

December 7, 2023
Authors
  • Lale Tekişalp portrait

    Lale Tekişalp

    Associate Director, Technology Sectors, BSR

  • Claudio Formisano portrait

    Claudio Formisano

    Associate Director, Human Rights, BSR

  • Taylor Hannegan portrait

    Taylor Hannegan

    Manager, Human Rights and Collaborative Initiatives, BSR

  • Kelly Metcalf portrait

    Kelly Metcalf

    Manager, Human Rights, BSR

  • Jiajia Chen portrait

    Jiajia Chen

    Associate, Human Rights, BSR

Key Points

  • The second Tech Against Trafficking (TAT) Summit brought together over 140 global anti-trafficking leaders, including businesses, civil society, academia, government, and survivors with lived experience, to explore the nexus between technology, forced labor, and labor trafficking.
  • Experts discussed how technology can be better leveraged to eradicate forced labor and labor trafficking, and how we can prevent the misuse of technology to facilitate these crimes.
  • TAT provides five recommendations for the anti-trafficking community based on the discussions that took place at the summit.

On November 15-16, Meta and BSR hosted the second Tech Against Trafficking (TAT) Summit in New York. Building on the success of the first TAT Summit that took place in 2022, this year the summit focused specifically on the nexus between technology, forced labor and labor trafficking.  

Over 140 global leaders across the anti-trafficking field, including business, civil society, academia, government, and survivors, came together to discuss how technology can be better leveraged to eradicate forced labor and labor trafficking, and how we can prevent the misuse of technology to facilitate these crimes. 

Expert panels discussed the state of the field in technology and forced labor, highlighting successful cases as well as gaps in the field. Deep dive panels looked at how forced labor is manifesting online (e.g., through recruitment and cyber scams) and in global supply chains; how emerging technologies such as generative AI are shifting the landscape, and how specific solutions such as worker voice applications can be leveraged in ways that lead to meaningful impact. On the second day of the summit, panelists explored how a stronger data ecosystem can be created for labor rights, what good public policy on forced labor looks like, and what businesses can do to disrupt the financial footprint of forced labor. 

Initial outputs from the TAT Accelerator were presented at the summit as concrete examples of how technological innovation can be leveraged by anti-trafficking organizations to help eradicate forced labor and labor trafficking. Polaris and the Issara Institute, the two participants of the TAT Accelerator Program in 2023, described how they are using mobile apps, worker voice solutions, data analytics, and generative AI to serve vulnerable workers around the world.  

“The Tech Against Trafficking Summit is an invaluable opportunity for experts, industry, lawmakers, and survivors to come together and combine their efforts to tackle human trafficking both online and offline. At Meta, we rely on our partnerships with experts dedicated to this space to understand the latest trends in labor exploitation, so we can continue to adapt and strengthen our protections."

Antigone Davis, VP and Global Head of Safety at Meta

Based on the discussion that took place at the summit, TAT provides five key recommendations for the anti-trafficking community: 

  1. We must prioritize the experiences and expertise of survivors. Survivor perspectives must be  incorporated into the design, implementation, and evaluation of anti-trafficking technology solutions. Businesses should hire survivors and ensure that a diverse set of individuals with lived experiences are consulted in designing programs and developing technology solutions, including those with different subject matter expertise. 

“How do we build effective data-driven tech solutions to address human trafficking? The simplest answer is to listen to survivors. Just like accessibility design, tech tools built ethically, with and for trafficking survivors will benefit all of us. Otherwise, we risk copy/pasting the very same problems we wish to solve.”

Sabra Boyd, Trafficking Prevention Consultant and Writer with Lived Experience

  1. Data sharing is key; standardization and privacy challenges should urgently be addressed. The anti-trafficking field needs to create a stronger data ecosystem where actors across different sectors can share information related to forced labor and labor exploitation. Data needs to be standardized and privacy-preserving mechanisms must be employed to ensure the safety of workers and survivors. Addressing these pre-requisites can help avoid redundancy, and spend less time on data collection and more on data analysis and response. 

  2. Industry actors should work together to prevent, identify, and address labor trafficking threats on their platforms. Online platforms are being misused in increasingly complex ways to facilitate labor trafficking. To prevent these risks, companies across the tech industry and beyond (e.g., financial services companies) should work together to share information related to threats and work together to address them. 

  3. Stronger collaboration and know-how transfer are needed between buyers and suppliers. Buyers should engage with suppliers as solution partners to cascade human rights due diligence along the value chain, supporting capacity building and continuous improvement, particularly for SMEs. The use of tech solutions should not be limited to buyers and data must flow both ways (not only from suppliers to buyers) to address forced labor in a meaningful way. 

“Google remains invested in TAT and the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking (GBCAT) because the coalition’s focus areas and its commitment to getting the right work done. GBCAT facilitates business collaboration and supports capacity building of smaller business and suppliers, providing practical guidance on identifying and addressing modern slavery risks.”

Shubha Chandra, Human Rights Compliance Lead, Google

  1. Cross-sector collaboration is essential for capacity building and better policies. Businesses should partner with governments to help close the technology knowledge gap in government, and to support the development of effective forced labor regulations locally and globally. On the other hand, policymakers have a critical role to play to incentivize data sharing and corporate transparency. 

“Combatting something as complex and global as forced labor takes collaboration with all stakeholders.  Amazon remains committed to our collaboration with TAT as a critical organization for identifying and supporting solutions. This is the second year that TAT has been able to bring together survivors, policy makers, tech innovators and companies as well as civil society to talk about how we can create solutions together to address this growing challenge.”

Leigh Anne DeWine, Director, Social Responsibility, Amazon

Collaboration and partnerships are crucial if we want to create meaningful reduction in forced labor. TAT will continue to serve as a platform for cross-sector collaboration in the fight against human trafficking, facilitating honest dialogue about the role of technology, its benefits, and shortcomings.  

In 2024, TAT is planning to: 

  • Continue to advance the use of technology by anti-trafficking organizations through its Accelerator Program

  • Explore practical solutions to strengthen the supply chain labor rights data ecosystem; 

  • Facilitate industry collaboration to prevent the misuse of technology to facilitate human trafficking; 

  • Work with survivor leaders to ensure that these efforts serve the best interest of vulnerable groups. 

Earlier this year TAT joined forces with the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (GBCAT), an industry collaboration that brings together companies across sectors to combat human trafficking in company operations and supply chains. TAT and GBCAT are actively recruiting new members. Contact us to find out how to get involved. 

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