European Police Hackathon Hunts Down Traffickers

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Law enforcers from 26 countries came together recently in a hackathon designed to enhance intelligence gathering on human trafficking gangs, according to Europol.

The three-day operation took place in the Dutch municipality of Apeldoorn, with officers from all 22 EU member states and four “third countries” taking part, alongside representatives from Interpol, the European Labour Authority and other organizations.

It focused on improving intelligence on how gangs recruit victims for sexual and labor exploitation, which increasingly happens online.

To that end, police checked 85 individuals, 325 communications devices and 371 platforms, including social media and dating sites, web forums, marketplaces and apps. They also looked at 31 platforms suspected of or identified as engaging in human trafficking, and 10 linked to child sexual abuse, Europol said.

“The open source intelligence investigative activities revealed that traffickers are indeed using the most popular social media platforms, but also dating apps and review forums,” Europol claimed.

“Recruitment attempts often take place in community groups on social media as well, which are created based on the geographical provenance of those seeking services, the destination country and the service required.”

Read more on human trafficking: Thousands of Social Media Takedowns Hit People Smugglers

Ukrainian and Chinese nationals were identified as particularly high-risk groups and a focus for police intelligence gathering.

As reported by Infosecurity, last year’s hackathon identified 11 suspects and 45 possible victims, 25 of whom were Ukrainian.

Human trafficking is a global problem that is fuelling other types of crime. In June, Interpol warned that victims are being forced to work in online fraud centers in South-East Asia.

It claimed that trafficking hubs have spread from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to at least for more countries in the region, with victims lured by ads on social media and recruitment sites promising lucrative jobs.

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