A new State Department report has revealed that predators worldwide took advantage of pandemic restrictions last year to draw more people into forced labor and sex trafficking, including children who spent their days online under government-imposed stay-at-home orders, reports the New York Times. It found that victimization grew as law enforcement and other resources were diverted to managing public health measures at the height of the pandemic. In particular, the number of cases of online sex exploitation appeared to skyrocket as people turned to their computers during lockdowns. The report found that predators increasingly recruited and groomed children — who were spending more time online, often without supervision — for sex trafficking and sexually explicit material.
In the United States, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 99 percent increase in children being enticed by online predators between January and September last year. Overall, the State Department estimates that nearly 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. The report assessed cases of human trafficking and exploitation between April 2020 and March 2021 and the efforts of 188 countries to combat the abuse. It also highlighted 11 countries where the State Department has accused governments of aiding or abetting human trafficking: Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan. In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) recently found that advances in online technology have contributed to an increase in the spread of child porn.