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Technology To Fight Human Trafficking: Microsoft Awards Research Grants

Sara Lerner

Microsoft is awarding money to researchers who will develop ways to use technology to fight human trafficking. KUOW's Sara Lerner reports.


Six academic researchers will receive the grants: $185,000 total. A few years ago, Microsoft developed photo–DNA technology that remains an instrumental tool in helping stop the spread of child porn. Basically, it puts something like a thumbprint on photos so police can track one image, even when it's handled by completely different online users. Mark Latonero is a research director at the USC Annenberg School.

Latonero: "It's my hope that some of the research which is being incubated, really by Microsoft with these grants, actually has that kind of potential in the future."

Latonero directed one of the very first research efforts that considers technology as a means to fight human trafficking. But he says this new seed money will help provide more hard data.

Latonero: "This research is really the starting point. The Internet is giving us this window into this world on a scale that we've never had before."

Microsoft announced the grant recipients this morning. The researchers will study the language used among traffickers and perpetrators. They'll interview men who have bought sex online from underage girls, and they'll talk to former victims, survivors of sex trafficking. And the future yet–to–be–seen tools they'll come up with? We don't know, but the researchers dream of a software that will help online publishers ferret out traffickers on their websites.

I'm Sara Lerner, KUOW News.

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