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Role of the internet in human trafficking to be highlighted at summit in SLO

Posted at 6:22 AM, Jan 23, 2020

Experts estimate over 25 million people around the globe are forced into the form of modern day slavery known as human trafficking and thanks to the internet, it's happening on the Central Coast, as well.

Concealed under a cloak of anonymity afforded by the internet, human traffickers make deals with real human lives.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow wrote in a report posted online in 2019 that at least nine cases of human trafficking prosecuted by his office since 2014.

Those cases involved 26 victims of commercial sex or labor trafficking with at least 15 of the victims being minors.

At a 3-day summit that starts Sunday, cyber security experts will consult with local law enforcement about the role of the internet in human trafficking.

"For the most part, a lot of it is taking place online which makes it difficult for law enforcement and first responder agencies to detect that individuals are being trafficked, solicited, groomed, advertised and then exploited online," California Cyber Security Institute Operations Manager Danielle Borrelli said.

Borrelli, who is directing the summit, said San Luis Obispo is an attractive place for traffickers to do business.

"San Luis Obispo is right in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you've probably heard it's a corridor between those two place," Borrelli said. "It's a realistic situation where you have traffickers transporting individuals between the different massage parlors in order to keep them under control, to keep them confused, and keep the anonymity."

The San Luis Obispo County Anti-human Trafficking Task Force formed in 2014 includes 30 government agencies and private organizations working to stop this problem.

Task force representatives will be on hand coordinating with cyber security experts on ways to pull back the mask on human traffickers.

A survivor of human trafficking is among the many experts serving on a panel at the summit.

The summit lasts from Sunday through Tuesday and takes place at the Cal Poly Multi-Activity Center. The public is welcome to attend.