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Understood as internet-based collaborative activity, crowdsourcing can be utilised by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in fighting online crimes such as human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. In such an instance LEAs can draw on the information held by the general public, to help solve puzzles of criminal investigation in instances where traditional police methods and intelligence have failed. This has recently been illustrated by EUROPOL in investigating crimes of child sexual exploitation, whereby EUROPOL launched a website relying on crowd knowledge sourcing. It is envisaged in this paper that the potential of EURPOL’s endeavour can be used beyond child exploitation, e.g., to address all forms of exploitation. Online exploitation in the form of posting images/videos of victims – whether to advertise their services (sexual or other) or as part of online pornography – allows exploiters, including human traffickers, to span across borders and reach unprecedented levels of audiences, whilst allowing for anonymity. In such contexts, where the police have minimal evidence to analyse, and evidence is often context/location specific and thus requires local knowledge, community engagement can become increasingly valuable; citizens can provide information, identify evidence and report suspicious activities. Yet our enthusiasm may be curbed by the numerous challenges that exist in relying on community engagement in the form of crowdsourcing when fighting crimes of exploitation. This paper answers the question of what are these challenges. The authors highlight the practical difficulties (e.g., getting enough participants), as well as the lack of awareness that continues to exist within the community about the crime of exploitation and the available opportunities for community involvement. Consequently, the paper concludes with providing recommendations to address these limitations.
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- Crowd Knowledge Sourcing – A Potential Methodology to Uncover Victims of Human Trafficking
- Chapter 3