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⁦I need to take a moment to respond to @LinderPG⁩ & ⁦@PittsburghPG’s⁩ uncritical celebration of ⁦@MarinusAI⁩ creating tools for cops to further target marginalized communities of sex workers

white liberal savior complex anyone?

“Emily Kennedy’s high-tech mission to stop human trafficking began years ago when she was traveling through Serbia, Macedonia and Albania.”
Yes, the Web has become popular for advertising things. Sex work is one of those things. What evidence exists that sex work ads = sex trafficking?

“the internet has become a popular tool for human traffickers, particularly in the sex trade, to advertise and sell their victims.”
People running trafficking rings don’t put their faces in ads. Facial recognition targets and outs sex workers.

“working to use facial recognition technology to help authorities catch leaders of human trafficking rings.”
Perhaps some of those sex workers are sex trafficking victims, but arrest is not helpful.

In fact, >90% of former victims report being arrested, yet ~75% say they never had an opportunity to discuss their situation with police and were returned to their traffickers.
Source: National Survivor Network Members Survey: Impact of Criminal Arrest and Detention on Survivors of Human Trafficking…
More often than not, highly publicized trafficking indictments don’t end in convictions.

“In January, the FBI took down a ring of sex trafficking operations in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

A federal grand jury in Portland, Ore., indicted six individuals”
Unfortunately, reporters too often do press release journalism for cops without following the story to it’s conclusion.

@ENBrown is one of the few exceptions. A recent case and point:…
Moreover, the supposed “victims” of these sex trafficking stings repeatedly come out condemning the raids (which often involve rape by deception as an investigatory tactic).

For example:… by @kittypurrzog
From recent article:

“‘Not only has policing never been the answer, it actively harms all of those people that we serve,’ said Aya Tasaki of Womankind, a local nonprofit serving survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.”… by @emma_a_whitford
Note the conflation of sex trafficking with sex work more broadly.

“The National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance… assisted in the case by seizing websites where prostitution services were advertised.”
The article acknowledges that sex worker’s in the industry by choice or out of situational necessity a outed to cops by this invasive facial recognition software but doesn’t interrogate what happens to the already marginalized people.
By ignoring that all sex workers are targeted, it perpetuates the harmful myth that all sex workers are trafficking victims, denying any agency to the majority of sex workers that aren’t trafficked.
@MarinusAI also doesn’t distinguish between sex trafficking and sex work more broadly, because their cop customers don’t just want to find (and arrest) trafficking victims, they want to find (and arrest) people engaging in sex work by choice or out of situational necessity
How many sex workers are back on the street as a result of not being able to find and screen clients safely through online ads?

“These sex trafficking circles primarily used the website… The FBI seized that domain name and about 500 associated ones. “
How? Whose face was recognized? Where are they now? Arrested? Deported?

“Marinus Analytics claims that it generated the original lead for this case with help from Traffic Jam, its facial recognition tool.”
this 👏 is 👏 not 👏 ok

“Marinus has collected millions of publicly available images from websites where prostitution services are advertised. These become the data points for its facial recognition platform, powered by artificial intelligence.”
This isn’t 1984, it’s Minority Report

“‘The software connects and finds needles in the haystack,’ Ms. Jones explained. “Through computer vision, we can connect content on these sites, based on the face or broader similarity in the background or foreground.”
Wow. This $$$ could have provided so many services to sex workers, including those seeking to exit the industry. But, instead, it’s putting them in jail.

“National Science Foundation, which has awarded the startup [@MarinusAI] $909,894 to date.”…
Call volume is a junk statistic that correlates with advertising $. How many calls merited follow up? How many ended in service provision, convictions?

“According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 127 cases of human trafficking were reported last year in Pennsylvania.”
Yes, and there’s also been tremendous pushback locally, which Pittsburgh papers have chose to ignored.

“In January, 90 advocacy groups penned a letter to tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon, asking them not to sell facial recognition technology to the government.”
In fact, just one week again students and community members protested a hackathon event held by @PittCyber where Emily Kennedy was supposed to be keynote but backed out, possibly due to the negative attention.…
During a walkout action by students, some claimed to have been intimidated by audience members purporting to be FBI officers and were told the would “be detained” if they returned to the event.
.@PghSWOP and other community groups also issued this statement about Pitt holding up @MarinusAI as an example for student who were being encouraged to design tools for cops.…
You make tools for cops to arrest people, not an “underserved popilation.” Stop trying to hijack social justice language.

Emily Kennedy: “Our contribution is really about reaching underserved populations that need technology and AI that wouldn’t otherwise get an opportunity.”
Finally, it’s important to remember that sex workers are disproportionately women, LGBTQ, PoC, disabled, poor, and immigrants.

So, when sex workers are targeted all these marginalized populations are disproportionately affected
Sex workers regularly experience harassment, assault, and both legal and illegal rape at the hands of cops.… by @melissagira
People with million dollar grants who build tools to aid cops in targeting marginalized populations don’t “catch the bad guys”; they are the bad guys.
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