Algorithmic detectives against child trafficking : data, entrapment, and the new global policing network
Author(s)Thakor, Mitali Nitish
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
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My dissertation explores how "anti-trafficking" has emerged as a global network of humanitarian professionals, law enforcement, and software companies collaborating to address the issue of child exploitation and trafficking online. I argue that the anti-trafficking network consolidates expertise through a shared moralizing politics of bureaucracy and carceral sensibility of securitization. This network mobilizes the issue of child protection to expand the reach of technologies of search and prediction, and to afford legitimation to a newly normalized level of digital surveillance. My findings are based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with the United Nations and anti-trafficking organizations in Thailand, with a child protection NGO and police in the Netherlands, and with software companies and law enforcement in the United States. I use two case studies to support my argument that the child protection movement has motivated the expansion of digital policing and surveillance: 1) image detection software developed in collaboration between social media and software companies and international law enforcement organizations; and 2) the design and deployment of a 3D moving avatar of a photorealistic girl used in a child sex exploitation sting operation by an NGO working with an advertising firm. I draw from queer feminist phenomenology to introduce 'proximity' as a governing concept for understanding expert sociality and digital surveillance. Child protection operates in a global affective economy of fear, in which the risk of violence is always anticipated and close. The new global policing network keeps exploitation proximate through the humanitarian ideology of emancipation that motivates child protection, and through publicity of technological campaigns, in order to produce public acquiescence to the spectacles of digital surveillance, shaming, and punishment.
Thesis: Ph. D. in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2016.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 244-268).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Science, Technology and Society.