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Michigan non-profits looking to Google to fight human trafficking

ER doctors are learning how to identity patients who may be victims of trafficking
Ira Gelb
Creative Commons

Michigan non-profits are looking into an innovative way of fighting human trafficking. The idea is to take advantage of free advertising on Google.

Google offers ten thousand dollars in free ads to non-profit organizations. The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission and a state police task force are working on gathering as many non-profits as possible to apply for the advertising with one goal in mind: Deter people who search for paid sex from following through.

The non-profits would use their advertisement allowance for anti-trafficking ads that would pop up when someone uses certain key words.

Kathy Maitland is a member of the committee and the task force. She said some people, like those with sex addictions, might not realize the harm they are causing. 

“That’s ultimately the desire is to help people get out of this and to you know see people transformed rather than just arresting bad people,” she said.

Maitland says the idea behind the project is to work on whittling down the demand for paid for sex, which is a core cause of human trafficking. She says for some people, just realizing the ramifications of using escort services and paying for sex can be a deterrent.

“Some people don’t understand what they’re doing,” she said. “That there’s victims behind what they’re doing. And for some people knowing that will make a difference.”

Maitland says they are currently working on an informational website that viewers will go to if they click on the ad. They hope to have the website ready by early 2017.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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