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Modern slavery

Data science to stamp out modern slavery at its roots

Kathleen Held  Sr. Project Manager and Producer, Thomson Reuters Labs

Kathleen Held  Sr. Project Manager and Producer, Thomson Reuters Labs

When our team of data scientists in Thomson Reuters Labs began to work on a project for our Finance & Risk business – specifically to identify bribery & corruption, forced labor and modern slavery information associated with firms and individuals – we became aware of some pretty scary facts.

How many slaves are in the world today?

Every day 21 million men, women and children around the world are exploited – 26% are children and 55% are women and girls. Illegal profits generated by forced labor amount to $150 billion annually.

Of course, these numbers just scratch the surface of what happens to victims and the activities behind the scenes. Human trafficking today involves vast global networks and players that are moving from the streets to online marketplaces. Marketplaces that enable data mining and analysis.

Examples of data exhaust that can be used to pinpoint and take down players in the illegal sex industry at Thomson Reuters hackathon.
Examples of data exhaust that can be used to pinpoint and take down players in the illegal sex industry.

Data science combats contemporary slavery

Our team jumped at the chance to wrangle some data to become more enlightened about the human trafficking problem and influence change. Part of the team lead by Brian Ulicny went to NYC to participate in a Science Against Slavery hackathon. We made connections with folks that cared about using data science for good.

Then the opportunity arose to participate and sponsor Hacktrafficking4Good in Boston. Thomson Reuters sponsored this modern slavery event with Demand Abolition, a non-profit that works tirelessly to end human trafficking. Demand Abolition also conceptualized and supports CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) and many of its members from across the country participated in the hackathon. We worked with these cities’ law enforcement agencies, involved citizens, hackers and NGO’s to come up with data visualizations, applications and data tools to combat modern slavery. Here is one of the data visualization entries from the hackathon:

Data visualization of prostitution arrests in major American cities
Data Scientists at the HackTraffickingForGood event produced this data visualization of arrest data to locate Johns in major American cities, enabling a shift in focus from human trafficking victims to human trafficking organizations.

Delete_All: Data and the fight against human trafficking

With such a diverse and invested group of participants it was a great opportunity to tell this global story. Produced with Long Haul Films, this is the story of change-makers: law enforcement, NGO’s, data scientists and others who are joining forces to free innocent people from all types of modern slavery.

Fighting modern slavery with data: Our ongoing commitment

  • Thomson Reuters Labs also participated in United Nations University sponsored workshop on human trafficking in conflict; we and contributed data visualizations, analysis and recommendations to all members of the UN Security Council for a recent anti-slavery event.
  • We have been invited to represent the technology sector and provide technical guidance to the Boston Mayor’s office, Boston PD and CEASE on the Boston Strategy & Implementation team.

It will take a global effort to put an end to modern slavery in our lifetime and we are using data science to help discover and free the victims.

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