Annie Isabel Fukushima from the University of Utah speaks about her article “Witnessing in a Time of Homeland Futurities”, due to be published on 27 April. “Current US rhetorical strategies of imagining a future of the homeland have led to the creation and utilisation of new technologies to contain and manage the border. These responses to the US border and immigration impact anti-trafficking efforts, sustaining a ‘homeland futurity’. Homeland futurity draws on and extends discourses of emergency that solidify borders as dangerous and risky. This article traces how homeland futurities emerged in US anti-trafficking efforts. Drawing upon interviews and focus group discussions with service providers and survivors of violence in San Francisco, the article demonstrates how migrant labourers are impacted by a discourse of threat and containment of the border. However, migrant labourers and their allies are innovating to secure a life that mitigates risk through migrant labourers’ use of technology. This article illustrates through the example of Contratados.org how technology may facilitate opportunities of future visioning by migrant labourers beyond a homeland futurity, to enact practices that bring to the centre migrants and their experiences through social networking and information sharing on job prospects.”
Publication of Issue 14 of Anti-Trafficking Review, ‘Technology, Anti-Trafficking, and Speculative Futures’
Guest Editors: Jennifer Musto and Mitali Thakor Editor: Borislav Gerasimov
Over the past decade, scholars, activists, and policymakers have repeatedly called for an examination of the role of technology as a contributing force to human trafficking and exploitation. Attention has focused on a range of issues – from adult services websites and the use of social media to recruit victims to the utilisation of data analytics software to understand trafficking and identify ‘hotspots of risk’. At the same time, technology has also been positioned as a disruptor of human trafficking that can be reworked and transformed ‘from a liability into an asset’. Yet, critical anti-trafficking scholars have cautioned that claims about the relationship between technology and trafficking rely on limited data and a number of assumptions.
The new issue of Anti-Trafficking Review explores these assumptions and the currently available technological tools that purport to address trafficking and exploitation. An article by Sanja Milivojevic, Heather Moore, and Marie Segrave traces the discourse surrounding technology and (anti-)trafficking since the early 2000s and outlines four common myths on which it is built. The authors call for more evidence but also more attention to issues such as fair labour migration regimes and decent work. Three articles – by Stephanie Limoncelli; Laurie Berg, Bassina Farbenblum, and Angela Kintominas; and Annie Isabel Fukushima – analyse various apps developed with the goal of combating exploitation. They show that many of these apps have limited, if any, benefit for trafficked persons or at-risk groups, while largely reinforcing neoliberal economic ideologies about the limited role of governments in regulating businesses. Such apps can only be useful when they are developed by, for, and with the people meant to use them, as Fukushima’s article demonstrates. Another three articles focus on the practice of shutting down websites hosting sex work ads as a way to reduce trafficking in the sex industry. Samantha Majic compares the public reactions to the shutting down of MyRedbook and Rentboy – sites used by, respectively, female and gay male sex workers. She urges the LGBT movement to overcome its ‘respectability politics’ and show greater solidarity with the sex worker rights movement. Erin Tichenor’s article documents the impact of the shutting down of Backpage on sex workers in New Zealand, while Danielle Blunt and Ariel Wolf examine the impact of the same in the United States. Both articles demonstrate how closing sex work ads sites has negative economic and emotional consequences for sex workers. Writing from the perspective of an NGO providing direct assistance to trafficked persons, Isabella Chen and Celeste Tortosa reflect on the use of digital evidence in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. In the final article, Kate Mogulescu and Leigh Goodmark show what happens to survivors of human trafficking who are prosecuted as traffickers and placed on sex offender registries in the United States.
Taken together, the articles in this Special Issue converge around one central point: the factors that enable and sustain human trafficking and exploitation are complex and require political will – not tech solutionist fixes. Anti-traffickers’ obsession with technological ‘solutions’ draws attention and resources away from issues such as decent work, gender, economic and racial justice, the free movement of people, and quality public services. In the current COVID-19 pandemic it is more urgent than ever to re-focus on these larger socio-economic and political issues.
For all contributions:
- Editorial: Between Hope and Hype: Critical evaluations of technology’s role in anti-trafficking
Jennifer Musto, Mitali Thakor, Borislav Gerasimov1-14
- Freeing the Modern Slaves, One Click at a Time: Theorising human trafficking, modern slavery, and technology
Dr Sanja Milivojevic, Heather Moore, Marie Segrave16-32
- There’s an App for That? Ethical consumption in the fight against trafficking for labour exploitation
Stephanie A. Limoncelli33-46
- Addressing Exploitation in Supply Chains: Is technology a game changer for worker voice?
Dr Laurie Berg, Bassina Farbenblum, Angela Kintominas47-66
- Witnessing in a Time of Homeland Futurities
Dr Annie Isabel Fukushima67-81
- Same Same but Different? Gender, sex work, and respectability politics in the MyRedBook and Rentboy closures
- ‘I’ve Never Been So Exploited’: The consequences of FOSTA-SESTA in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Erased: The impact of FOSTA-SESTA and the removal of Backpage on sex workers
Danielle Blunt, Ariel Wolf117-121
- The Use of Digital Evidence in Human Trafficking Investigations
Isabella Chen, Celeste Tortosa122-124
- Surveillance and Entanglement: How mandatory sex offender registration impacts criminalised survivors of human trafficking
Kate Mogulescu, Leigh Goodmark