Fighting human Trafficking with a short code

A safe communication channel

Human trafficking captives are constantly monitored and they only get a few seconds alone. In that time frame they can send a text and start receiving help without the risk of getting caught by their captors. The key to that rescue is communication.

So in early 2013, The Polaris Project teamed up with Thorn,, and Twilio to launch “BeFree” (233733), a Twilio-powered short code for human trafficking captives. The goal was simple: provide a secure channel for rescue powered by direct communications.

Giving survivors the power to communicate

A short number that spells a simple phrase – BeFree – can be promoted on signs and billboards and is also easily remembered. A phone call can actually put a trafficking captive in danger from the chance of being overheard, or a captor seeing the details.

Sending a short code is a safer option versus making a call while under the supervision of captors. One quick text to “BeFree” to be automatically connected to The Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). Then the text can be erased.

“Our research with child sex trafficking survivors has shown that many of them use text as their primary form of communication and that, when under the control of their trafficker, they were in need of more accessible, discrete forms of communication to seek help,” said Julie Cordua, Executive Director, Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children.

The impact

The Polaris Project gathers information from the “BeFree” short code and uses that data to coordinate with law enforcement and even coordinate rescues. Going forward, the Polaris Project will organize the data from texts using Salesforce and share them with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which has already received 70,000 phone calls in the past six years.

By harnessing the power of communications and technology, we can make an impact and save lives one at a time. “This is one of those times that affirms our conviction that software can change lives for the better,” says Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio.

Learn more about some others ways you can help stop human trafficking and the details about “BeFree”, The Polaris Project, and the NHRTC on

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