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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Teams with Yahoo! and Polaris Project to Fight Human Trafficking, Help Victims Online

Monday, June 18, 2012
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced an innovative program with Yahoo! and Polaris Project to combat human trafficking by harnessing the power of the Internet to direct users to the national human trafficking hotline whenever certain terms related to human trafficking are searched through Yahoo!. The goal of the initiative is to identify more victims of human trafficking by connecting survivors and community members to resources and support.

This program with Yahoo! and Polaris Project will provide Internet users with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline number when they search for specific words or phrases. If key search terms such as “human trafficking” are used when using Yahoo! Search, Internet users will see a banner that states: “Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 to report sex trafficking, forced labor, or to get help.”  The Attorney General’s Office has also made available a website widget for download so that operators of any website can display a similar banner, which can be found at http://oag.ca.gov/widgets/human-trafficking.

Attorney General Harris pioneered this joint effort to combat human trafficking which has largely migrated online in the last five years.  Many human trafficking victims today are exploited through online advertising sites where their labor and bodies are advertised for purchase.  As human trafficking moves online, it is critical that victim services and law enforcement also respond online.

 “Thousands of people are sold around the world, and trafficked into our country, every year for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor,” said Attorney General Harris. “Human trafficking, often of children as young as 5 years of age, is a highly-lucrative enterprise for organized gangs who menace public safety.  I commend Yahoo! for its moral leadership and Polaris Project for its commitment to identifying and serving victims of this intolerable crime.  The efforts of Yahoo! and Polaris Project will improve the lives of untold people, and I hope that other search engines take similar steps to combat human trafficking.”

“As human trafficking moves into the online world, Yahoo! is in a unique position to have a positive impact on these terrible crimes,” said Michael Callahan, general counsel for Yahoo!  “We believe this program and resulting activity will play a strong role in getting help to those in need.”

“This is an important step towards uncovering this hidden crime and providing human trafficking victims with a path towards freedom,” said Bradley Myles, Executive Director and CEO of Polaris Project. “To truly eradicate human trafficking from our communities, everyone must work together to increase awareness that this crime exists right here in the U.S. and to help survivors find the resources they need to reclaim their lives. We thank Attorney General Harris and Yahoo! for their leadership in recognizing that we are all part of the solution.”

The NHTRC hotline, operated by Polaris Project and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, received more than 19,000 calls last year, with more of those calls coming from California than any other state.  Almost 20 percent of callers nationwide who reported potential human trafficking found the hotline number through an Internet search

The hotline is a toll-free, victim-centered number available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in more than 170 languages. Trained call specialists are on constant standby to link human trafficking victims to shelter and other resources that provide safety and protection. The hotline also fields tips of suspected human trafficking cases and provides information, training and technical assistance to diverse audiences. The NHTRC has built up a national network of more than 3,000 organizations and contacts who are working to fight and respond to human trafficking across the country. With this comprehensive anti-trafficking referrals database, call specialists can connect callers to local service agencies or law enforcement officers who are ready to respond.

Attorney General Harris has made the fight against human trafficking a key priority throughout her career as a prosecutor. She co-sponsored the 2005 California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act that first made human trafficking a felony in the state. 

Attorney General Harris also served on the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force and the Department of Justice is currently updating the report “Human Trafficking in California,” which was released by the task force in 2007. The updated report is expected to be issued this summer.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, the world's third most profitable criminal enterprise behind drugs and arms trafficking. Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, commercial sex, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage, or involuntary servitude. While human trafficking can be closely linked with the smuggling of human beings across international borders, tens of thousands of Americans are exploited in human trafficking situations inside the United States ever year. Human trafficking strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates our nation's promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights.

Polaris Project is one of the leading organizations in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.

Yahoo! is a digital media company, creating digital experiences that keep more than half a billion people connected across devices and around the globe. For more information, visit the pressroom (pressroom.yahoo.com) or the company's blog, Yodel Anecdotal (yodel.yahoo.com). Yahoo! is the trademark and/or registered trademark of Yahoo! Inc. All other names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

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