Media Outreach: Bringing Mass Attention to Human Trafficking

Media Outreach: Bringing Mass Attention to Human Trafficking

Our goal is to change the media coverage of human trafficking to be less sensational and more in-depth and data-driven. When we shift the focus from individual cases to the whole system, we see an increased understanding of how trafficking is thriving in our country, how interconnected it is at all levels, and what we can do to stop it.

In 2020, we shared our knowledge on anti-trafficking data, technology, and intel support with The Washington Post and challenged the mainstream conspiracy Qanon theory narrative on NBC News through their nationally syndicated Nightly News and their website.

We were recognized as leaders and experts by the most influential traditional media in the country and launched our work to change how we speak about trafficking. We were featured as subject matter experts on CNN's "This is Life with Lisa Ling", ranked number 1 in cable news in its time period for adults 25-54.  

In 2020,  we submitted thirty letters to editors and nine Op-eds across national news outlets, augmenting media coverage and ensuring well-rounded discussions of human trafficking and exploitation. For instance, we advocated for repealing the New York loitering law, a law common across the nation that disproportionately impacts vulnerable groups. (This law is often called the “Walking While Trans Law”). This law puts all the attention on potential victims, obscuring exploitation and protecting traffickers."We need to improve public policy to ensure, as a community, we support vulnerable populations while stopping traffickers. Supporting instead of arresting potential victims is a necessary step in eradicating human trafficking and creating a pathway out for survivors," our CEO, Rochelle Keyhan, wrote for NY Daily News.

Through weekly letters to the editors and Op-eds to state and local media, we seek to help the public gain a more nuanced understanding of the different types of trafficking and of victims' perspectives. We also reach out to journalists to share data and information on ways to improve their coverage of these human rights crimes. One of the most common errors journalists make is in their portrayal of victims of human trafficking as prostitutes, which both labels victims and potential victims as criminals, and conflates consensual sex workers and forced and coerced victims as one in the same. Also, newsmedia often publishes victims’ photos and personal information, which increases their vulnerability and, in the case of sex trafficking victims, amounts to the publication of a rape victim's personal information. These victims have already gone through horrible exploitation and now deserve privacy and respect, similar to victims of rape and sexual assault, whose identities we typically keep anonymus.

We monitor and fact-check media coverage every day. Sign up for our bi-weekly Human Trafficking Newsletter to stay informed about the latest in the fight against trafficking.

Check out the full Impact report 2020 here.