Human Trafficking

Students Build Virtual Reality Massage Parlor for Cops

You know, to "fight human trafficking."

|

Groups raising "awareness" about human trafficking seem to occupy one of two categories: the merely ineffective and the actively harmful. Those in the first category tend toward public spectacle, like standing together with tape over their mouths (are you aware, yet?), while those in the latter category find ways to make it easier for cops to arrest sex workers. Falling somewhere between these two is a new project out of California Polytechnic State University.

"A team of Cal Poly students is using virtual reality to fight back against human trafficking," KCOY12 San Luis Obispo reports.

And how, pray tell, are they doing that? By building a virtual massage parlor for cops, of course.

It seems that upon having bought into the idea that massage businesses are hotbeds of human trafficking and sex slavery, Cal Poly students decided that building such a place in virtual reality could help police. The creation is meant to be used to "train law enforcement on different evidence and different things to look for," Marco Zuniga, a 2019 Cal Poly grad who worked on the project, told KCOY12.

Zuniga said he got the idea from the California Cybersecurity Institute, where he worked while he was in school. Apparently, the institute—a "partnership among academia, industry and government" that's affiliated with Cal Poly and the California National Guard—employs a fake physical massage parlor to train law enforcement.

As with so many programs designed to train people on the "signs" of sex trafficking, the virtual massage parlor really just pinpoints signs that prostitution or other sex work might be happening—or that a business might employ migrant workers.

"Passports, bus tickets, and even the pricing are clues purposely sprinkled around the place," says KCOY12. Lower than average prices are allegedly a tell.

While these may, in fact, be signs of sex work and/or immigrant labor, they are all incredibly dubious signs of sex trafficking. Plenty of people have passports and take buses without being traffickers or victims. And plenty of independent and immigrant-owned massage places offer lower prices because they forego the frills associated with fancy spas and corporate massage chains.

But let's ignore that for a moment. What's more astonishing is the idea that cops need some special simulated space—be it the physical massage-parlor model at CCI or this virtual reality program—to learn such simple tips.

Wouldn't it be a lot less time-consuming and more cost-effective just to tell law enforcement, "Hey, look for low prices and keep an eye out for stray passports and bus tickets?"

"This is a perfect example of what anti-sexworkers in the #RescueIndustry think funding should be spent on: building their vr fantasy version of a massage parlor, and then showing to other people, to prove how BAD sexwork is. No ACTUAL sexworkers involved," commented dominatrix and activist Mistress Matisse on Twitter.

Alas, the massage parlor simulations may be among the more benign "anti-human trafficking" efforts out of the California Cybersecurity Institute, which partners with and gives training to many law enforcement agents. Its operations coordinator, Danielle Borrelli, is even a subcommittee chair with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Human Trafficking Task Force.

Borrelli's theories of how to spot exploitation are even worse than those of the students CCI trained; they're more oriented toward simply catching sex workers and calling it rescue work. Talking to Central Coast Public Radio in August, she warned about "condoms and other paraphernalia" in trash cans and "a lot of makeup lying around."

Over the summer, CCI trained officials from across California in this so-called wisdom and even provided "a live, immersive anti-human trafficking set design on the conference floor" at the California Peace Officers Association conference.

An article on the immersive training stated that "passports, makeup, and leftover takeout boxes are scattered around the room giving participants important clues that sex trafficking is occurring." Because eating takeout is apparently suspicious now, too.

At least one CCI staffer admits this is a fantasy scenario. Interactive Communications Coordinator Ciera Dixon, who helped build the set, described it as "building your own little world for people to suspend disbelief when entering the experience."

Borrelli, who calls the VR project a "Learn by Doing pedagogy," has praised the use of "web crawling technology" and photo recognition software in anti-human trafficking operations. Recently, these tools were used by Defense Department and NASA scientists to scan, archive, and extract data from millions of sex worker ads. Borrelli said that next year CCI plans to launch its own software program that can be used by law enforcement worldwide.

NEXT: Is Mass Incarceration Inevitable? Part 4. Show Me the Money

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Off-topic:

    In the decades-old battle of politically correct verses reclaiming the word for our own, is this the first? Black coach fired for using n-word with black players

    https://www.yahoo.com/gma/high-school-football-coach-fired-using-racial-slur-091747285–abc-news-topstories.html

    1. He called them nancies?

    2. It’s a traditionally-black school, but what if a white student had been on the team? Would he have been expected to leave the area while his black teammates did the chant?

      1. And is it the n-word like in HNIC, or is it more like “are you going to win are you just a bunch of n-words?”

  2. You know this VR massage parlor is not going to be very popular with the cops. VR Massage Parlor 2.0 that includes VR masseuses in the form of petite 18-year old Korean babes promising happy endings will be extremely popular. For training purposes.

    1. Cops prefer to go to real massage parlors, where they can bang the prostimasseusse, then take their cash after they blow their load in exchange for not arresting them.

  3. And how, pray tell, are they doing that? By building a virtual massage parlor for cops, of course.

    Can the cops still go into the real massage parlor and get a few hand jobs just to make sure some form of prostitution is going on in these places? Asking for a cop.

  4. Defense Department and NASA?! They’re going to defend us against interplanetary alien trafficking, or human trafficking is the trendiest way to get funding.

    1. I would really like to hear the explanation as to why NASA funds are being used for this. I’m sure there’s some logic, like image recognition software development. But still, it would be nice to hear the official version. Because I’m having a really hard time figuring out what prostitution has to do with Aeronautics and Space.

      1. Because I’m having a really hard time figuring out what prostitution has to do with Aeronautics and Space.

        Somebody’s never seen Lust in Space, Star Whores, or Debbie Does Dagobah.

        1. Barbarella.

      2. Considering that every alien abduction story includes “probing” I would posit the theory that the primary driver for interstellar travel is looking for new ways to get off. “If you can imagine it somebody is into it” is not limited to only this planet.

    2. We have to protect the Orion slave girls.

  5. Bus tickets, passports, low pricing, used condoms, take-out food, make-up and “other paraphernalia” might all be suspicious signs you’re dealing with a sex-trafficking operation, but you know what’s even more suspicious? A lack of bus tickets, passports, low pricing, used condoms, take-out food, make-up and “other paraphernalia” – because that means you’re dealing with a *smart* sex-trafficking business that hides the evidence. The really sneaky sex-trafficking operations that might have just a modest amount of maybe food cartons and make-up are the ones you have to be most suspicious of, they’re smart enough to not have a suspicious amount of nor a suspicious lack of bus tickets, passports, low pricing, used condoms, take-out food, make-up and “other paraphernalia” lying about.

    To catch a crook, you have to think like a crook. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this seems to come naturally to most cops.

    1. Which explains why law enforcement has settled on the undercover sting operation as the go-to in this situation. Only by collecting a representative sample of services can the truth be known.

  6. Groups raising “awareness” about human trafficking seem to occupy one of two categories: the merely ineffective and the actively harmful.

    This from a stupid cunt who attended the pussy hat march and praised race riots.

    (are you aware, yet?)

  7. Does the vr simulation also teach the cops that it’s not OK to promise to look the other way in exchange for a handy?

  8. How did they get a picture of my freshman dorm room.

  9. Wouldn’t it be a lot less time-consuming and more cost-effective just to tell law enforcement, “Hey, look for low prices and keep an eye out for stray passports and bus tickets?”

    BUT THINK OF THE JOBS!

  10. Those in the first category tend toward public spectacle, like standing together with tape over their mouths

    A highly effective tactic which I encourage all proggies to use.

  11. Cal Poly motto – Training the next generation of fascist prudes.

  12. Come on, everybody knows the way a cop can tell it’s an illicit massage parlor is because he gets a b.j. there every couple of days after work.

  13. I suspect this VR experience will not have a happy ending.

  14. The references to VR massage parlors really must have given Crusty false hopes…

  15. “Students Build Virtual Reality Massage Parlor for Cops.”

    How come I don’t get a virtual reality massage parlor?
    I’ve been good.

  16. I hate those places. I always walk in and ask for a handy and I get really rude looks by the people working and they say they only do massages. What do I have to do? Is there a code? A password?

    1. Flash some really big bills, or go on to the next place. You’re just not trying hard enough.

  17. I wonder how many young kids dream about growing up to be cops and solving murders and catching bank robbers and such, just like TJ Hooker or Starsky & Hutch, only to find themselves giving out speeding tickets and stopping lonely men from paying for handjobs.

    It’s pathetic. It’s no surprise some of them just snap and start shooting people’s pets or suffocating people selling loose cigarettes.

    1. I don’t think they need a reason to shoot people’s pets … it just comes naturally to them. Whereas shooting people selling loose cigarettes (without collecting and turning over the taxes thereon) is a clear cut case of financial survival.

  18. I make a big amount online work . How ??? Just u can done also with this site and u can do it Easily 2 step one is open link next is Click on Tech so u can done Easily now u can do it also here Click it here <<<<<<

  19. This is terrible. It is terrible that in our time we can create many useful things for students, come up with how to make life easier for students, (https://www.blogherald.com/2016/03/16/write-sharable-posts/), but we cannot figure out how to stop this nightmare.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.