It’s a rainy April afternoon in Taguig City when police spring into action. Nearly one million people call this bustling financial center of the Philippines home. It’s loud and crowded and easy for a child to become lost and maybe even forgotten—but not today. Local law enforcement has been methodically building their case for half a year, scouring the internet, and analyzing every scrap of data available. And it all pays off. The highly coordinated operation is a success … but how did we get here?
Our interconnected, digital world has brought immense benefits, advancing every sector of society; however, some with malevolent intent have taken advantage of this connectivity to gain access to those most vulnerable. Unfortunately, traffickers, abusers, and pedophiles use technology to exploit children. Criminals use social media, gaming platforms, chat applications, and video conferencing software to sell recorded videos, images, and livestream feeds of rape and abuse at an alarming rate. Online child exploitation demands decisive and unflinching action. Fortunately, there are ways to fight back.
Transnational organized crime (TOC), which includes human trafficking, poses a direct threat to public health, public safety and national security. Countering TOC efforts are carried out in three main ways: Interdiction, Intelligence, and Investigation. Numerous investigators and analysts are working tirelessly to detect, disrupt, and identify offenders, but the sheer volume of data and digital media to comb through can be overwhelming. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is fiercely dedicated to countering human trafficking across the country and around the world, no matter how difficult or time consuming the mission may be. That’s why the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has teamed up with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and others to develop the enhanced analytic platforms, tools, and capabilities required to do this important work.