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Colloquium organised by the Fondation Scelles: "Digital Society, from best to worst"

Thursday 20 March 2014

The seminar, under the aegis of M. Guy Geoffroy, current Deputy of Seine and Marne and former public reporter for the Prostitution Information Mission in France, highlighted the link which exists between human trafficking for prostitution purposes, or any other sexual exploitation, and the use of the internet. Forums, social networks, webcams, chat rooms or different sexual advertisements are first of all, a fertile ground for cyber criminality and second of all, facilitate the recruitment of both clients and victims of prostitution. The seminar included four addresses and two meetings, and was made up of two parts. The first centered on « diagnosis », and on the analysis of the phenomenon and the focused on possible solutions, the « prospective » aspect. The Secours Catholique), coordinating The Collective « Together against human trafficking » attended the colloquium.

Human Trafficking is, as Mrs. Myriam Quemener – General Attorney at Versailles Appeal Court recalls, a major phenomenon, and is currently expanding worldwide. Generating no less than 32 billion of annually, human trafficking is the third most prevalent type of trafficking in the world after drugs (number one) and weapons (number two). Today, the total number of individuals exploited worldwide is estimated at 20 million.

The predominant form of human trafficking prostitution and sexual exploitation and has been exacerbated by a digital society through which criminal activity may maximise its profits and minimise the risk. It must be remembered that sadly, prostitution and sexual exploitation still happen in France also. Today, the number of prostitutes working on the streets in France is estimated at 15 000 to 20 000. This number does not even include the more discreet though nonetheless prevalent forms of prostitution, such as prostitution in sex-shops, massage parlours, hostess bars, student prostitution, etc. There has been a retreat from street prostitution to these more covert and therefore secure locations as regards human trafficking.

Conscience that attempts to legalise prostitution, such as the system currently enforced in Germany, have led to a tremendous expansion of criminal networks and an increase in prostitution, the French draft law n°1437, reinforces the fight against prostitution and is decidedly abolitionist. Unlike the opinion suggested by the press, this bill does not only aim to reprimand the clients; among the provisions of the draft legislation are prevention, reinsertion and non-penalization of victims (the abolition of the offence of solicitation) all of which are major factors in the fight against prostitution. However, the abolition of the offence of solicitation raises the serious question of the repression of explicit sexual advertisements on the internet.

Digital society, notwithstanding its advantages and the freedom it offers, is a fertile ground for human trafficking. First of all, the anonymity and the possibility of using a login are a perfect cover for traffickers, allowing them to expose themselves with much lower risk than street prostitution. Secondly, the nature itself of a digital society which is both worldwide and deterritorialized allows traffickers to ignore borders and shelter themselves in a cyber-paradise, while still committing offences and crimes on the other side of the world. Faced with the difficulties in enforcing the law, the heterogeneity of legislation between the different countries and the slowness of police and judicial international cooperation, traffickers are reacting and adapting rapidly to pursue these offences. The volatility of the websites, the fact that those illegal websites are hosted in different foreign countries, and the existence of loopholes where traffickers can flourish, are factors which make police and judicial work particularly difficult. If, as pointed out by Michel Delean – Mediapart journalist, internet and a digital society are not the very essence and origins of the human trafficking, it still remains, for traffickers, a considerable asset.

Among the arsenal to fight against cyber criminality, is a special police unit called the Central Office of Fighting Against Cyber Criminality Connected to Information and Communication Technologies (COFACICT). Created by the statutory order n°2000-405 on May 15th, 2000, the mission of this particular office, attached to the Central Management of Juridical Police (CMJP) within the General Management of National Police (GMNP), is to fight against any form of cyber criminality, particularly against violations against children (12% of alerts processed by the office). While COFACICT also works against online fraud and phishing, it is also competent in human trafficking cases and grooming (deliberate attempts by adults to approach children virtually in order to sexually abuse or traffic them, or produce child pornograpy). COFACICT includes a platform of harmonization, analysis, intersection and orientation of alerts (PHAIOA) that collects, processes and transmits the alerts of internet users and service providers to the competent offices. This unit, open to any individual, is available at the following address: www.internet-signalement.gouv.fr.

The globalization of crime and human trafficking makes it necessary to cooperate internationally, especially through Common Survey Teams (CST) and International Rogatory Commissions (IRC). It also involves an essential cooperation between law enforcement and private actors such as internet services providers (even if their role is run down).

The role played by private actors are of primary importance. In respect to this, we can applaud the initiative of the phone services provider « Orange » to educate parents with open courses about the risks provided by the use of internet. In addition, there are a number of good behavior principles and ethical conventions, such as the web-etiquette or « netiquette » or the «Against Hateful Content Convention» provided by the Internet Access Provider (IAP), even if the actual utilisation thereof is questionable.

In addition, non-state alerts mechanisms are available ; in particular, the association INHOPE network, whose IAP is a founding member, and his French partner Point of Contact. Those mechanisms are respectively available on the following links: http://www.pointdecontact.net/parte... and http://www.pointdecontact.net/. The INHOPE network, supported by the European Commission, currently includes 46 hotlines in 40 different countries and helps securely transmitting reports and alerts with illegal unlawful contents to hosting countries.

The followings participated in the conference as speakers or regulators : Mr. Guy Geoffroy, Deputy of Seine and Marne and former public reporter of the Prostitution Information Mission in France, Mr. Yves Charpenel, General Attorney at the Supreme Court and President of the Scelles Foundation, Mrs. Myriam Quemener, General Attorney at Versailles Appeal Court, Mrs. Valérie Maldonado, Divisional Commissioner and Chief of the Central Office of Fighting Against Cyber criminality connected to Information and Communication Technologies (COFACICT), Counselor Gérard Haas, Attorney specialized in Information and Communication New Technologies Law, Mrs. Christiane Feral-Schuhl, Former President of the Bar and Attorney specialized in New Technologies law, Mr.Michel Delean, Médiapart Journalist, Mrs Carole Gay, Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Internet Access Provider (IAP) Association, Mrs. Nathalie Chiche from Environmental, Social and Economic Council (ESEC) and Legal Reporter of the study « Internet, for an open and equitable governance”, Mr. Jean-Christophe Le Toquin, President of the SOCOGI, Cybercriminal expert of the European Counsel, and Mr. Alain Doustalet, in charge of the Internet Offenses Unit at the phone services provider « Orange »