Social media platforms hijacked for trafficking European hackathon shows

Social media platforms hijacked for trafficking European hackathon shows

“Many social media platforms, dating apps and private groups online are being ‘hijacked’ by individuals involved in human trafficking for sexual or labour exploitation”, Europol said after what is described as the first EU-wide hackathon against trafficking. The action identified 30 online platforms attempting to lure Ukrainian refugees.

The hackathon comprised  20 countries and targeted criminal networks using websites and social media platforms to recruit victims for sexual exploitation.

“The joint efforts of law enforcement in the monitoring of platforms which may offer sexual services, recruitment, and the harbouring or transportation of victims increases the intelligence picture.” 

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“Compared to other crime areas, such as drug trafficking or trafficking of weapons, it is more challenging to identify the indicators of trafficking in human beings in an online environment.” 

“This joint action day gathered criminal intelligence to determine these indicators as part of the fight against criminal networks using the online environment to exploit the most vulnerable people.” 

Europol says the investigators explored a wide range of websites and other online platforms for trafficking in human beings and other criminal activities. They focused on criminal networks using social media, the surface web and the dark web to conduct human trafficking. 

“These platforms include social media, dating platforms, advertising and aid platforms, forums and messaging applications. Investigators also checked platforms on the dark web in relation to trafficking in human beings and child sexual exploitation online.”

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Main figures: 

  • 114 online platforms monitored in total, of which 30 were related to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees;
  • 53 online platforms suspected of links to human trafficking checked, of which 10 were related to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees;
  • Five online platforms linked to human trafficking checked, of which four were related to child sexual exploitation on the dark web; 
  • 11 suspected human traffickers identified, 5 of whom were linked to trafficking of human beings, and specifically to vulnerable Ukrainian citizens;
  • 45 possible victims identified, 25 of whom were of Ukrainian nationality;
  • 20 platforms with possible links to trafficking of human beings identified for further investigation and monitoring;
  • 80 persons/usernames checked, out of which 30 were related to possible exploitation of vulnerable Ukrainian citizens.

  Participating countries: Austria, Albania, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

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