How Tech Can Be An Enabler of Modern Slavery without Appropriate Regulation

Well it’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the field of ethics and technology particularly with the testimony given by Mark Zuckerberg to the US Congress. Not commented on so much as other parts of his testimony was a very core principle that seems to shake the very foundation of the internet platform business model.”I agree we are responsible for the content”.

There, right there, a central tenet of what the large technology companies have been arguing for years came tumbling down. That they bore no responsibility for content. It was followed shortly after on April 6th with the closure of Backpage.com long considered the dominant marketplace for the sexual trafficking of young women in the US.“This is a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike” US Attorney general Jeff Sessions said in a statement. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children had calculated that 73 percent of the child trafficking reports it received from the public stemmed from Backpage. The Founders and five employees of the company have now been jailed.

But the action taken against Backpage.com by the authorities did not happen in a vacuum. On February 10th 2017 the documentary I Am Jane Doe was released in selected theatres in the US and subsequently released on Netflix on 26th May 2017. It tells the story of the legal battle fought by several US mothers who had rescued their abused young daughters after they had been trafficked via Backpage.com. As commented on by the Washington Post the film is“A viscerally emotional case for a common-sense reassessment of the law”

One of the victims of Backpage, identified in the film only as“JS.”(RichardSchultz/50 Eggs Films)

The Documentary is the work of award winning Mary Mazzio (Screenwriter/Director. Previously Mary directed and produced the highly acclaimed award-winning films Underwater Dreams, The Apple Pushers, TEN9Eight, A Hero for Daisy, Apple Pie, Lemonade Storiesand Contrarian. Underwater Dreams was screened at the White House and to date has raised over $100 million dollars in public and private partnerships for STEM Education.

Mary will be joining us in Manchester on the 30th May in the first event of The Federation Presents which is the programme that we’ve curated for 2018 looking at the tech industry’s big ethical issues like algorithmic bias, regulation, data privacy and the field of technology and ethics.

She will be telling the story of her remarkable journey into the nightmare that is child sex trafficking in the US, the intransigence of the tech industry in fighting for the rights of these trafficked girls and the whirlwind of lobbying at the highest political levels to seek justice. It’s the story of how tech can be an enabler of modern slavery without appropriate regulation.

The Co-op Group has its own programme aimed at tackling modern slavery and on the night Marys talk will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by Matt Atkinson Chief Membership Office for Co-op. He will be joined by Paul Gerrard Co-ops Campaigns and Policy Director who leads the groups work fighting modern slavery and Craig Melson Programme Manager across Digital Devices, Consumer Electronicsand Environment and Compliance with TechUK. Craig will be sharing how the Tech Industry is responding to the modern slavery act.

We’d love you to join us for what we know is going to be a fascinating evening at this interesting ethical junction in technology. You can book your tickets here

The Federation Presents is made possible through the generous funding of Omidyar Network and Co-op Foundation and through the sponsorship of Co-op Group, BJSS, Kainos, Northcoders and Hermes/NOMA. Our official Media Partner for The Federation Presents is The Manchester Evening News.