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The Great Smoky Mountain Journal


Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2019 02:25 PM

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NATION: Uber Enlists Drivers To Help Stop Sex Trafficking

Uber wants its drivers to help stop sex trafficking, an enduring problem that has prompted activists to press workers on the front lines of the travel industry to alert authorities if they see it happening.

Over the past few years, Uber has enlisted its drivers in local and regional efforts to help fight human trafficking of adults and minors. But the new initiative, which begins Monday, at the end of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, targets all 750,000 active U.S. drivers and eventually will expand to other countries.

"This is a global problem that affects all our cities and communities, and we realized our drivers are uniquely positioned to make an impact," Tracey Breeden, a former police officer who spearheaded the program as Uber's Global Safety Communications lead, tells USA TODAY.

Breeden says the expansion of the program to foreign markets will take time because "we have to make it fit each country, with its own unique hotlines and support organizations, but that's definitely our goal."

Among Uber's partners in the U.S. initiative are The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, anti-trafficking tech company Thorn, and The McCain Institute for International Leadership, whose efforts to battle human trafficking are led by Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The new Uber program comes at a time when the ride-hailing company is trying to burnish its image after a year of reports on its toxic corporate culture and ethical lapses. An area of particular focus for new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is drivers, who previously had a sour relationship with former CEO Travis Kalanick.

Uber has spent the past six months instituting a variety of driver-oriented changesranging from establishing a hotline for questions to adding a tipping option.

Unlike New York City taxi and limo drivers, who by law must watch a video on trafficking before being approved for service, nothing about the new Uber human trafficking awareness push is mandatory.

When Uber drivers log on to the app, they will be presented with information that includes how to spot victims of trafficking and best practices for reporting tips to the police and anti-trafficking support groups such as Uber partner Polaris.