Written by Lauren Delisle
Reports on the kidnapping of instagram-famous Chloe Ayling indicate that the twenty-year-old aspiring model and mother of one was taken from an apartment in Milan where her agent Phil Green had set up a photoshoot for her.
Within hours, Ayling was drugged and stuffed into a suitcase then brought to a remote town in the Italian Alps where she was held for ransom. According to kidnappers, Ayling was to be auctioned online via a sex trafficking group known as the “Black Death Group” unless Green paid $300,000 for Ayling’s release.
For the next week, Ayling was kept handcuffed to a wooden chest except for an instance in which she had gone shoe shopping with her kidnapper, now identified as 30-year-old Polish national, Lukasz Herba. In a letter found on a computer that belonged to the “Black Death Group,” the captors explained, “You [Ayling] are being released as a huge generosity from Black Death Group”…”A mistake was made by capturing you, especially considering you are a young mother that should have in no circumstances be lured into kidnapping.”
Since her release, Ayling has indicated that there had been several online bidders lined up to take her who would have paid over £230,000. She has now returned to her home in south London where she is slowly releasing information to the media.
Though the story can be summed up quickly and wound up with a generally positive ending, it does bring up one very pressing issue due to nature of the crime.
At the most basic level, the kidnapping is an instance of attempted online sex trafficking. It is absolutely vital that attention be paid to the influence of technology on the initial success of the Chloe Ayling kidnapping. With the rise of the Internet, technology continues to provide more ways for the world to connect. Consider, however, that while some portion of this is monitored, a large amount of this connection is done through the “dark web,” or World Wide Web content that exists on darknets, overlaying networks which use the Internet but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. On the one hand, escape from targeted ads and government surveillance makes the dark web beneficial for users who prefer anonymity and value confidentiality. Due to the high level of encryption, websites are not able to track geolocation and IP of their users while users are unable to get this information about the host.
Unfortunately, however, the darknet is also used for illegal and often immoral activity such as illegal trade, forums, and media exchange for pedophiles and terrorists. As Internet pioneers continue pushing the world to become a more digitally connected place, it is doubtful that online, illegal human trafficking and the consequent kidnapping and involuntary prostitution necessitated to fuel it will decline in relevance.
Aspiring social media gurus are receiving messages daily; even young children have access to websites where they might be lured with an innocent request and pulled into the world of sex trade. In fact, the National Center for Mission and Exploited Children reported over 22 million photos and videos involving child pornography, making child pornography one of the largest industries to date. Incredibly, 70 percent of the child sex trafficking survivors accounted for were at some point sold online. These are staggering numbers that cannot be ignored.
With an estimate of over 100,000 children and young women between nine and nineteen sold online today in the US alone, it is apparent, by the number, that this issue is affecting us, even if we can’t always see it. If you are someone who has believed that this cannot happen to your child, sibling, significant other etc., think again. It would be foolish to believe that anyone is safe from the dangers of online human trafficking in a society where life online is the new standard.