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When Nicole was aged 17 and her mother was sent to prison for white collar crimes, she met a man on Facebook who offered to take care of her.But instead of looking after her, he sold Nicole to men across the United States from Texas to Washington D. It was only when she was in her early 20s, after being badly injured in a vicious rape, that she was finally able to escape sex work. Traffickers worldwide are increasingly using social media to contact vulnerable teenagers and sell them into sex work, quick to adopt the latest online platforms popular with teenagers that has created new challenges for law enforcement agencies.
Powell, accompanying Nicole to the Trust Women conference on trafficking and women’s rights this week run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said a growing trend in the United States is to use Whats App or Snapchat where messages evaporate over time.
“In some cases you have really stupid traffickers who leave mountains and mountains of email trails,” said Powell.
“But most of the time everything’s done through different applications on different sites so law enforcement is having to learn how to use these …
It’s a whole different ballgame.” Europol, the European Union’s police agency, said social media and other online technology have not only taken the recruitment and selling process off the streets but also allow traffickers to control victims using remote surveillance.
But it does mean traffickers and victims leave permanent traces which can help police to identify them, Europol added.