Web 'helps human trafficking'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2006, 12:00am

The trade of human traffickers is being aided by the internet, says Linda Criddle, who heads a Microsoft unit dedicated to stopping the practice.

Ms Criddle, who is attending the annual Global Summit of Women in Cairo, said the company had set up a team to teach victims and their families how to protect themselves.

Predators were using the anonymity of the Web to contact victims and to make them available to paedophiles around the world. The Microsoft unit is researching methods by which children can be protected and parents warned.

Ms Criddle has written a book, Look Both Ways, a Family Guide to Internet Safety, which will be circulated internationally.

'There is a ring that puts catalogues of children on the internet, describing and showing pictures of them,' she said.

'Paedophiles can order from this catalogue and then extreme measures, even kidnapping, are taken to obtain the children and make them available for a very high price.

'Children must be warned never to put personal details on the internet, whether on personal websites, blogging, or chat rooms. Even friendly pictures such as children standing outside their school can lead traffickers and molesters to them.'

During the summit, Microsoft gave US$1 million to Suzanne Mubarak, wife of the president of Egypt, to aid a fund she operates to combat human trafficking in the Middle East.

'But it is not only in developing countries that these criminals operate,' Ms Criddle said.

'In the US, it is estimated that 100,000 children are being held as sex slaves, while one in five boys and one in four girls are sexually molested.'

The United States-based Microsoft unit is already working with British police to detect Web child pornographers and traffickers.

There is already a branch in Asia that helps police with research, and another Asian unit for child and personal safety will be formed.