Jensen: The power of social media is the first step to help end modern-day slavery

Derek Jensen

Slavery is still happening today. 

The practice of human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Even more shocking, the industry is believed to have generated profits of an estimated $32 billion. Furthermore, here are more numbers to keep you feeling sick to your stomach:

Between 14,500 and 17,500 humans are being trafficked in the U.S. annually; the average price of a slave in 1809 was $40,000 (adjusted to today’s value) and in 2009 it is believed to be only $90; and the affected “hidden population” worldwide is estimated to be between 10 and 30 million people today.

I still can’t believe this modern-day slavery continues today, providing a profit to the individuals responsible for these immoral and illegal acts. Sure, illegal drugs and arms trafficking crimes rank number one and two, but we are talking about the mistreatment of humans against their own will.

Thankfully we have the power of social media, which is really the voice of the people coming together to spread a thought or message in the online world with the hope of leveraging a real world impact.

Currently there are two major pushes to end modern-day slavery led by Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and CNN. Kutcher and Moore created a foundation called the Demi & Ashton Foundation. The foundation’s message is “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” The other major movement supported by CNN is called “The CNN Freedom Project.”

We all should know that “social media” describes a blog, Twitter, Facebook or really any form of communication that occurs online with the ability for others to share or comment on the message that was sent out.

Both the Demi & Ashton Foundation and The CNN Freedom Project have set up specific websites with slightly different approaches. For simplicity’s sake, I will use the abbreviations DNA and CNN when referring to these two pushes to end modern-day slavery.

DNA has the influence of Kutcher, who is an Iowa native and was early to see the importance of social media in reaching crowds to create an impact. On the other hand, CNN is renowned for being “The Worldwide Leader in News.” So you can expect that these two pushes have the initial punch to lead a movement that helps end human trafficking.

In terms of numbers, their Twitter accounts (@dnafoundation and @CNNFreedom) have a combined following of only about 30,000 people. While this is just the number of Twitter followers, it does provide a good idea of the number of people currently paying attention to the issue. These numbers are still small for their influence and reputation. Twitter might not be the most accurate number, but it provides a starting point to expand. 

So what’s next? I vote to create another push that ends modern-day slavery (or spread these initial pushes) and get more political and public support for this subject to create an even bigger movement. Human trafficking is not focused on enough based on the numbers and the immorality of the crime.

As stated by Rob Morris, the president and co-founder of Love 146, a nonprofit organization that works to combat child sex trafficking:

“If we are going to end modern-day slavery, governments, non-government organizations, law enforcement, service providers, communities of faith, businesses and corporations, individuals — all have to work together. The reality is traffickers make up such a small fraction of the human race. Then there is the rest of us.”

Morris is right. It is going to take many partnerships and pushes (more than just the two I’ve mentioned) to bring about a movement at this kind of level.

Slavery was fought over during the Civil War and today it is still happening. Now with the advancements in communication, technology and overall intelligence, you would think this would just be done. I strongly believe there is a great deal of potential to lead a very strategic and efficient movement today, but we lack the willingness in people. Surely the times have changed since the Civil War, but has the perseverance, heart and ability for humans to do good changed?

I don’t think so. Technology has granted us more opportunities to lead movements like the one currently in progress, but the problem lies in we the people allowing technology to distract us and create an “interpersonal divide,” which was first identified at Iowa State University.

Social media has allowed all of us to connect and utilize the potential of current technology. But I’m not saying social media alone will solve this issue. It takes more than the power of social media to create movements like the one to end modern-day slavery.

Surely, getting started with social media is easy, as we have the ability to create a “free” account (Dr. Bugeja in Technology & Social Change 474 was right), but making the impact and difference to end this act of slavery will take work, if I haven’t yet made myself clear. 

Can humans save humans when it comes to trafficking? I have hope. We just have to know where to start, how to contribute, and then execute both within and outside the online world.