Of course, to the extent that it makes everything, whether good or bad, faster, cheaper, and easier.

From Reuters:

The number of people locked in slavery in Britain rose by 22 percent last year, with online dating, social media sites and Internet job advertisements used increasingly to recruit victims, a new report showed on Tuesday.

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) identified 2,744 people, including 602 children, as potential victims of human trafficking in 2013 with more than 40 percent ending up in the sex trade and almost 30 percent forced into manual labour.

The third annual human trafficking report listed Romania as the most prevalent country of origin for victims for the third consecutive year, with more than half exploited for sex, and Poland as the most common country for labour trafficking.

Here’s the report, which estimates that between 4,200 and 4,600 are enslaved in the United Kingdom, mostly for sex or manual labour. . There is also a Walk Free Foundation that produces the Global Slavery Index, which estimates 30 million worldwide.

The British government is launching a bill to tackle slavery more effectively. Note: The NCA, roughly equivalent to the United States’s FBI, was only created last year, to better co-ordinate police action on, for example, child sex abuse and organised crime.

But dealing with the problem, as opposed to issuing righteous-sounding statements about it, will be messy. Usually, the cover for the human trafficking operation is some position that sounds respectable or acceptable (nanny, education, whirlwind romance –Report, p. 12) At least some slaves are willing victims—as the Report puts it, “Some people who have been trafficked may not consider themselves to have been exploited.” (p. 5) Their living conditions might actually be worse if they were returned to their countries of origin(assuming they would live long there at all). Another issue is that many are controlled through drugs, alcohol, or fear of violence. (p. 14) So they might prove hostile witnesses unless they are guaranteed protection, landed status, and rehabilitation in exchange for testimony.

I was not surprised to learn that agriculture accounted for 10% of victims in Britain. Hiding someone on a farm is comparatively easy and that person could go for days with mainly animals to tell their troubles to. But curiously, in the British report, the tarmac/paving industry accounted for 10% of the victims too, and car washes, 4%. Perhaps British readers can offer some thoughts about that.

In any event, as Monique Villa, Thomson Reuters CEO, says,

Modern-day slaves are found in unexpected places. Washington, D.C., was rocked a few years ago by allegations of human trafficking by diplomats working at embassies and international institutions.

One enterprising suggestion offered by the NCA Report is: “introduce a statutory defence for victims of modern slavery so that those forced to commit an offence as a direct consequence of their slavery are not treated as criminals by the justice system.” (p. 3) Some child pickpockets are trained for the purpose. It wouldn’t be quite fair to treat them as delinquents; from their perspective, they are obedient children.

The Internet is changing the way law and law enforcement work in general. So far, we have discussed defamation law and copyright and patent law – in short, the comparatively safe civil side. This is way worse, and I’ll have more to say about it later.


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...