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Sex trafficking is a major social issue, and technologies based on AI and blockchain have started to successfully be used against it. There was a high profile case recently, where Carl Ferrer, the CEO of backpage.com was sentenced for money laundering. Part of the story is Portnoff’s et al. research, which used AI in order to identify sex trafficking rings, and then combined this with transaction tracking on Bitcoin’s blockchain, in order to pinpoint individuals. You can read more about this from Berkley University’s blog.
There have been some other similar projects such as the DIG, by the University of Southern California and Marinus Analytics. These projects work on a similar principle to Portnoff’s research. They crawl webpages with ads, and try to identify similarities between the different pieces of text, as well as other pieces of information such as phone numbers. By doing this they can identify whether clusters of ads have been created by a single or multiple entities.
Besides this, there are other attempts to fight trafficking through the use of blockchain, such as the World Identification Network. This is an ID network on blockchain, which can provide identification for everyone, including people that do not have identification documents, such as refugees, and victims of trafficking. Moldova has already started working on implementing this system. Before children cross the border, the system will scan their eyes and fingerprints and this information will be stored on the blockchain. This will make it much more difficult for traffickers to fake identities of the trafficked victims.
It is clear that AI is changing the landscape of crime investigation, and there are many questions raised by the public. Bitcoin has been used for illegal activities, but now blockchain is used to fight back.
I had the chance to be interviewed about this topic on Bloxlive.tv, where we talked in more depth about Portnoff’s solution, and how it was used against Backpage.com, as well as how AI and blockchain can be used to improve society. You can find the full interview here.