The practice of human trafficking, a modern term for slavery, has existed throughout the history of mankind. Even though the practice of human trafficking has been outlawed by almost all states as of today, the practice of human trafficking is still prevalent worldwide. According to a report published by the International Labour Organisation, approximately 21 million individuals were trafficked worldwide in 2012. Globally, the human trafficking industry is a highly lucrative sector, as it generated approximately US$ 150 billion worth of profit in the same year. Such high volume of human trafficking can be attributed to the use of the dark web. In what ways does the dark web facilitates human traffickers?
How the dark web facilitates human trafficking compared to the surface web and the deep web
The dark web is a term often used to refer to a part of the internet that is relatively hidden and needs certain software in order to be accessed. It is different from the surface web, which is a part of the internet that is relatively open to the public and can be easily accessed through standard search engines such as Google. The dark web itself is a part of the deep web, a part of the internet that is not accessible through standard search engines. Approximately 90% of all websites can be considered as part of the deep web, while surface web makes up the rest. Therefore, the inaccessibility of the dark web by the public made it a suitable platform to conduct illicit activities, including human trafficking.
Accessing and surfing through the dark web requires using a specific software, and Tor is by far the most popular tool used to reach the dark web. Tor bounces a user’s internet connection to a group of computers at various places worldwide as a medium, thus making it hard to trace the original location of a Tor user. This means that, a human trafficker can conduct their activities in the dark web without the fear of being arrested by law enforcers, as Tor hides their original locations. With such, it is harder for law enforcers to stop human traffickers that conduct their activities in the dark web.
An analysis regarding the number of Tor users by state and the severity of human trafficking by state
The amount of Tor users somewhat correlates with the severity of human trafficking in several states. The U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons publishes a report regarding the severity of human trafficking by state and the state government’s effectivity in combatting human trafficking yearly, in which it classifies states in tiers. Tier 1 states have a low prevalence of human trafficking activities and a strong effort from the government to combat human trafficking, tier 3 states have a high prevalence of human trafficking activities and minimum government effort to combat it, while tier 2 states are in between. Russia and Iran, in which both states are classified in tier 3, also have the world’s largest and second largest amounts of Tor bridge user respectively, with Russia contributed to 19.53% of all Tor bridge traffic, while Iran’s share was 10.5%. The two states alone contributed to almost a third of the world’s Tor bridge traffic. Thus, the severity of human trafficking in a state can correlate with the amount of dark web users.
What can the government do to tackle this issue?
The advancement of digital technology, particularly the internet, has greatly enhanced the capacity of human traffickers in conducting their illicit activities. The Government should also keep up with the pace of the advancement of technology so that it can compete with the pace of the human traffickers. Tor made locating the users difficult, but not impossible through data mining. A notable example of an attempt to unravel the dark web can be seen in the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s announcement of the development of the Memex program in 2014. Memex is predicted to be able to mine a significant amount of information, including the location of the users of the dark web by analysing a massive amount of data available in the dark web. Furthermore, Memex has been open sourced to the public. Other state governments can use the open sourced Memex and further develop it to fit their national needs, as the nature of human trafficking differ from one state to another. In addition, state governments can cooperate with each other to track human traffickers by using their own version of Memex or similar tools.
To conclude, the dark web greatly helps human traffickers to conduct their illegal activities. The dark web permits its users to be anonymous and untraceable, thus making attempts to arrest the human traffickers extremely difficult. Law enforcers can pretend to be potential customers in the dark web, and later trap the human traffickers after gaining a sufficient amount information. However, this practice is becoming more and more obsolete, as human traffickers are also becoming more experienced with their trade. State governments can keep up to the pace of the human traffickers in the dark web by using their own modified versions of Memex or similar programs and by cooperating with each other in information exchange, since the human trafficking industry is transnational.
Editor: Anaq Duanaiko
Written by: Ariq Dmitri Andrei
 International Labour Organization. (2014). Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour. [online] Available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---declaration/documents/publication/wcms_243027.pdf [Accessed 5 May 2019].
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