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Billy Joe Cain at Humboldt Against Sexual Exploitation (HASE) Conference 2023 – “A Day in the Life” and concerns about automated grooming

Radical empathy helps you emotionally understand how anyone can become a victim.

Billy Joe has spent 30 years in the interactive space, creating award-winning games, simulations, educational programs, and “gamified” training products. He has launched a new EA Sports franchise, built products for Nickelodeon, delivered a flight simulator for the United States Air Force, and created and maintained educational programs to improve critical thinking, math, and vocabulary skills. Now, his mission is to prevent human trafficking.

Billy Joe has been building educational products to fight trafficking since 2017, because his children were being groomed by a sex predator, whom he had known as a friend for years.

For his nonprofit, , he developed an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experience which, in 15 minutes, demonstrates how anyone could be psychologically manipulated into becoming a victim of human trafficking.

Billy Joe co-founded with his partner, Dr. David Deeds, to provide online certificate-level training around the world.

He is a member of the Prevention Workgroup of the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Taskforce for the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CTCAHT), and the Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce.

In this talk, Billy Joe explains how TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story connects with trainers and users, and then explains how artificial intelligence and other advancing technologies must be contended with as parents and trainers.

Follow along in the slideshow here.

Get your OWN Appleseed box and try out TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story right now!

Visit Radical Empathy Education Foundation's website and learn how to get started today.

"Get started through our Appleseed Program" campaign advertisement. Virtual Reality for human trafficking prevention.

Video transcription

Disclaimer: this transcript is HORRIBLE, but it's 1) better than nothing and 2) something I can improve over time. 

Human trafficking is an issue. Impacting communities everywhere including the North Coast local and National organizations convened at the Blue Lake, Casino Tuesday to increase and discuss topics including the link between, sexual exploitation and The American tribes, the history of human trafficking in Humboldt County and more tabling at the conference was an organization that provides virtual reality trainings on human trafficking, essentially you put the virtual reality headset on which connects to these headphones, and automatically you begin, a training that goes through the experience of a survivor of human trafficking. I'm trying to warn parents Let them understand that when they let their kids go online if they are not watching them right there, at that very second. It's basically like leaving your kid alone and the on the side of the road you have no idea what's happening with your children organizers. Tell me, they hope to make the conference a recurring event with the next one tentatively scheduled for 20-25. We need other people here, we need , we need the Department of Health and Human Services, child welfare and Suspenders. And any other partner? Who's willing to come to the table in order to try to identify and Empower and to really end sex trafficking and in Humboldt County reporting in Blue Lake.

Conference organizer Tina Sims: I'm all about collaboration. So today is not about about the Tina show whatsoever. This is about us. As many local people as possible. However, I have been driving home this virtual reality headset, that I think is imperative for people to find out about. So, all the way from Austin, Texas. We have Billy Joe Cain.

Billy Joe Cain: Thank you. Wow, everything that I've heard so far is right on target. The solution to this is collaboration. The solution to this is recognizing that there are huge vulnerabilities that need to be addressed immediately. While we're getting the computer set up, I'll tell you guys a little bit about myself. So I know in the book, there's a little write-up about me. I started making in 1992 on the Super Nintendo development system, so I made games for Electronic Arts, the United States Air Force, and THQ. I made SpongeBob SquarePants games and things like that. Had a wonderful career in the game industry but you wind up working a lot of hours. And I found out that I, this is not the purpose of me being up here, but through my research, I found out that I was I was actually labor trafficked by Electronic Arts. I was working seven, 16 hour days for weeks and months at a time. But because I had passion, you know, for the game industry, they took advantage of that.

So that's kind of a thing to keep remembering about. All this stuff is everything is about vulnerabilities. So what is it somebody vulnerable?

I come from Austin, Texas. Like I said, I'm a game developer. In 2017, I started a nonprofit called Radical Empathy Education Foundation dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking.

I found out that my children were being groomed by my boss who was my friend, I was working at home, he was calling the house on my land line phone. So my kids would sometimes intercept a call. The kids would chat with him and then they would give me the phone. I've known the guy forever, so I didn't think much of this, but our son came to us one day. It's like, why is he telling me that there are certain porn sites I'm supposed to look at? What is the deal with that? My son was 13 at the time and apparently this guy thought that, that was just, that's just what you're supposed to do. You're an uncle, you're supposed to tell children how to go reach pornography.

So, when we got finished with the police, the police, they explained that what he was doing was our children. He was talking to them about sex and eventually he was promising to take them out to really nice expensive places. And trying to keep that a secret. But our kids actually had sense enough because we had told them this that there's not supposed to be bad secrets. Secrets are supposed to be good. Like what you're getting somebody for Christmas or what you're going to get them for their birthday. Something like, don't tell your parents that I'm having conversations about how to clean your genitalia would be a bad secret. So the kids actually came and talked to us about that. The thing was that I didn't really understand. I don't understand grooming enough to be able to make sense out of it.

It really bothered me that I couldn't find any tools that would actually teach me anything about grooming in a way that made sense. Years later after working, in all sorts on all sorts of different games, I started working in virtual reality. Virtual reality is a technology that allows you to exist in a world that is completely computer-generated. You can put someone in a situation they couldn't be safely part of in any other way. What I did was I created a virtual reality simulation to put you in the shoes of a young girl and she explains how she was groomed by meeting somebody online. So she has a problem. Her family is divorced, she's not getting enough attention for mom. So what happens is she's posting online about her vulnerabilities. 

And somebody finds out about that and then starts offering her all of those things that she's not getting, she's not getting attention from her mom. So he's going to offer her, attentions looking at her pictures and saying how beautiful she is. And so she's she gets that and that, that puts her in the situation, where he event, he eventually tricks her and turns her out and that's all done in the VR. Would love to show you guys all about it. This was the part that the police told us. Basically they explain the grooming is about building Trust. Establishing an emotional connection and exploiting, these vulnerabilities to gain control. This guy was a friend, so he already had access to my kids, so he didn't have to go find them, he actually knew them. But this is the thing that I learned is, I started as I started down this path of trying to learn more about human trafficking vulnerabilities are the key to everything. So my wife and I decided that we were going to sell our house and go on this journey together. There's a huge article about it which you can read if you really wanted to, but I have lots of other things to tell you guys about. So we just decided that we were just going to go build it. Spend a year traveling America talking to experts was on a number of stings with police, I've spoken to, you know, dozens of survivors. And finally tried to figure out what it was that was going to What was going to be the best way I could convey to someone how this could happen and so that the situation where somebody gets groomed by going on , posting about their vulnerability, someone acknowledges and recognizes those vulnerabilities. Somebody comes into their life, it feels a little or abilities for them, which is again it's one of those things happens within three within 48 hours. Right? Somebody's out there. They have a vulnerability. They don't have a place to live. They don't have any food. They're basically saying I'm hungry. People can take advantage of them and that's kind of how How that happens when kids are in a runaway situation. So this video is a it's kind of a walkthrough of the VR experience which you can all come and try. I would love to have you take a look at it? This is all on our website as well but it kind of get this will show you a little bit about what it's like to be in virtual reality. You don't have a mouse in virtual reality so you look with your eyes. So I had to create an interface that would allow you to actually select things with your head. Look at Your selection and then hold until the circle. Completes the beginning, we're trying to break a lot of myths. Freedom, I remember what it feels like being outside and just playing in the yard with so cool. Having a whole day to myself with something I used to expect and now I can't even imagine it happening again. So one of the things that I learned while I was working on designing this experience was that people do not know how to use virtual reality. So they put a headset on and they're like, what the hell is going on. So I built an outdoor area. So you can take a look around and just kind of amazed yourself at how cool it is to see a tree blowing in the breeze and see Shadows. But this is the world that you're that you're inhabiting, as you move your head around, you're able to look and see and what CeCe to marker and then look directly toward it. So it's she's telling you how to how to make it work. Sometimes mr. Cruz She was at the corner, she would take a group of us biking up the hill to watch the plane's, take off and leave the airport. I used to create stories and impression about where they all were going. So this is a training experience, but the thing is most people like why we already got into the training. Well, part of this is the training. We're trying to get people to understand. This can happen in any environment, any neighborhood anywhere to any status person. So this is, you know, obviously a nice suburban area. Area. One of the reasons is this actual experience works for people is that it is a 14 year old girl. That is having a conversation directly with you. As you move through the story, she's telling you what happened to her, she's kind of on this journey along with you and it turns out that children don't listen to adults. 

So, when you put a video, They're hearing a 14-year, it's really a 27 year old actress, but she's a she does a lot of stuff for animated movies. So they're having a relationship, they're building a relationship with a peer. So this is a peer-to-peer tool. So when the kids take the headset off, they're like, oh my gosh, you actually listening to me, you've created a situation where I can learn something. Also, when you have a headset on, it's not embarrassing, you know, nobody's looking at you. Nobody's nobody's saying oh we're Thing about sex you were thinking about trafficking it's like it gives somebody a completely alone space to be. They're not getting texts. They're not getting texts. It activates multiple learning. Modalities your site your sound your kinesthetics. It's experiential learning etc etc. I could go on forever about why? It's why it's a good, but the point is that I want you guys to try it because you're never going to believe it until you see it. All right, we have we have people all over the United States from Washington down to Florida. You guys are part of our California grew. So big ups for that now. And this is where I'm going to stop talking about the VR stuff and I'm going to talk about what's really going on. So I thought I was into coming and I was going to talk about this, but the thing is that what's happening right now with technology artificial intelligence spyware chat, online safety security, social media, all of these things are coming to a convergence point where the tools that are being used to groom people are no longer just a person that calls on a landline and it's no longer somebody. That's just the human being on social Media. This stuff is becoming automated. And by automated, I mean, like we're talking defense department spyware. That is put on your phones and on your computers and people are reading things. They're getting a hold of your text, they're getting a hold of your pictures and those things can be used against you and I was like, I needed to twist everything that I'm doing. So I can because I have a technology background. I'm going to try to convey to you guys, how dangerous, all this stuff is, so you can be aware that. If anybody has access to a cellphone computer, the internet SMS texting, you are vulnerable to all sorts of maliciousness and your children is they have access to the internet or SMS texting. They are, they are incredibly vulnerable. And so I'm going to try to scare you to hopefully make you make some small changes in your lives. So, 

Some of the stuff that's happening right now. We have artificial intelligence, you're going to hear about it constantly. I'm not going to go into too much detail. There are chatbots where you can chat on the on the computer and it will talk to you and Sarah and tell you things, spyware hacking, Big Data, large language models having to do with all this stuff, geo-tagging in your pictures and your and your videos and even your phones that have near field communication. So you can sit down on a pad and charge your charger phone. Well, actually this thing can actually be used To pull data off of a nearby computer that sitting next to it. So if you had a computer with some pictures on it, that you didn't want anybody to get a hold of and you had a phone that had spyware on it. If you put this phone next to this computer or hard drive that has pictures that you don't want on the Internet or anybody to see, they could get onto here and given to the person that is running the spyware is there is some very, very bad stuff happening. So one of the I had I was just in At a conference in Wyoming, called grit greater Rockies immersive, training conference and it was fantastic in. There was a gentleman there is name is Chris Chris Quest as he is a launch Excel enforcement and now he's in a he's a gang investigator. Does a lot of work on reservations and he's been telling me that not only not only is all this stuff there but they're using prop. They're using a program called Pegasus and this is not just not just the military that has access to Pegasus but it's actually The drug cartels which are also the trafficking cartels etc. Etc. Pegasus is scary. You can bypass your phone security and install spyware the grants complete access to your device. 

You can access every message you've ever sent. It can access every message you've ever received. It can access every photo. Every video, every email, it couldn't turn on your microphone, it can turn on the microphone even when you're not using a phone call and just record what you're doing in the room, it can turn on your camera. It can record. What's on your screen? Yes, it can monitor your location. And it can do all of this without you ever knowing the spyware technology that makes this possible is called Pegasus. Vegas is probably the most advanced piece of spyware ever developed. It is effectively the most invasive form of surveillance imaginable. Any idea that you had this aspects of your life could be kept private and on the mobile phone of wrong. So if you are someone who thinks that you're safe, because you use WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted or you use signal, it really is meaningless a once that Pegasus on your phone, Own Pegasus. Can infect both IOS and Android, well, remaining virtually undetectable. So, one of the ways that Pegasus will attack your phone, is through what's called a zero-day vulnerability. This is a vulnerability that the phone's manufacturer doesn't yet know exists. 

Pegasus is the main product of a company called ns0 Group, which is an Israeli surveillance company. So the people who were using the spyware, I'll government clients. These will be governments around the world that the NSO group have sold a copy of pegasus2. A guardian investigation can now reveal widespread abuse of Pegasus by nso's government clients. 

Okay. So this video is actually about what's been going on with the bunch of reporters that are off that are all being spied upon so we don't need to worry about all those reporters right now. I'm trying to tell you guys. These people are actually and that's all done by the government's. Now that now that the cartels have access to this stuff, they're using a against all of us and our children. I don't know how much I mean, I don't know if you guys realize how much money that a child is worth. I mean, these children can be used for hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. So these guys are serious as heart attacks and they're really good at their job. But this is my man, Chris and he's kind of just giving an idea of. So, these guys are using Pegasus and they are looking at your children's data. What is it? That they are actually looking for? That's what they look for Dad. 

It's accumulating that they're looking forward to develop specific targeting for recruits. They look for 15 text messages. And these are algorithms that are created to be able to focus in on individuals that are looking for attention. And then establish a contact with them. Whether through gaming device cell phone or tracking their particular phone and starting with calls like hey girl you're cute. I know you. And unfortunately a lot of these individuals fall for it because I'll talk for a long time, but basically they're able to look more and see what kind of text messages they can read and they can do, they can determine automatically. What is the context of those messages? They can figure out what kind of conversations you're having? They know who you're communicating with or they can find out what your social media is. How you're connected with all of your different social media. So they they know They can know that your account is attached to multiple different social media accounts and if they can also determine intent in the photos, this is all done automatically. A human being does not have to participate in any of this information gathering. They can read your text messages, etc, etc. Okay. I'm going to be done with Chris, but the flame trying to get at is that we are in a whole new world in the last year with all of this stuff getting out here. This 

Really scary. You need to be sure that, you know what your children are doing online. You need to make sure that you get them to understand what's going on with their Safety and Security. This stuff should be incredibly concerning for you. If you let your child have access to a cell phone when you are not around, you may as well. Just drop your kid off on the side of the road. Because, How much security that you've got children, do not know how powerful and dangerous. This is in fact most adults don't know how dangerous this is. I live in this world and until two weeks ago I didn't even know how dangerous this was. This, this is scary scary stuff and it's up to you to help educate the Next Generation and it's not just our kids. It's also our elders. Like I know people that are in their 70s 80s, 90s. They're Losing touch with their current reality. They can get tricked. So, easily. All I said, was telling you the computer can do all that stuff, well, guess what? Then happens. After, after you've met the criteria that the cartel, or the bad guys have set, then they hand you over to a human being and then human being is now, their job is to land you. And and find out where you are, who you are, how vulnerable are you? And they're not looking for people that are going to be difficult to manipulate. They're looking for People are going to be easy to manipulate so these people are really really smart. Okay blah blah blah. This. Okay, so like, and if you can imagine just blackmail right, okay? So let me let me lay this one on you. 

This is, this is from a 60 Minutes piece, then you really don't know how you can protect yourself online. Rachel, toback, Is an ethical hacker. 

Because operate so ethical hackers, we step in and show you how it works toback is the CEO of social proof security, a data protection firm that advises Fortune, 500 companies, the military and private citizens, on their vulnerabilities. We hired her to show us how easy it is to use information found online to scam. Someone we asked her to Target, our unsuspecting colleague, Elizabeth toback found, Elizabeth cell phone number on a business. Networking website. 

As we set up four. A high-powered app to mimic my voice and ask for my passport and takes 3 seconds of data toback. A i generated voice recording for us to reveal the scam. Elizabeth. Sorry. Need my passport number because of Ukraine. Trip is on, can you read that out to me? That sound familiar and I gave her. Wow, how did you do that? So I use something called a spoofing tool to actually be able to call you as Sharon Farms act. And I failed, I failed with that everybody would? It says, Sharon everyone toback showed us how she took Clips of me from television and put it into an app, the clone my voice, it took about five minutes, I am probably person, my voice is out there. Could a person who's not a public person like me right. Be spoofed as easily, anybody can be spoofed and oftentimes attackers will go after people. They don't even know who these people are but they just know. This person has a relationship to this other person and they can impersonate that person enough just by changing the pitch in the modulation of their voice. That I believe that's my nephew. so I need to really wire that money. 

Okay? So that's the end of my presentation. I hope you're all sufficiently concerned and I will take questions. 

Questions and answers

Is Pegasus mentioned in anything. No, it's a great question. So Pegasus was not is not mentioned in any terms and agreements Pegasus is an illegal hacking software that was created by governments to spy on you and other governments. And now it is fallen into the hands of the bad guys. So they now have access to it. Your phone, you could have your phone on and Pegasus could be being installed on it, right? This second you would have no idea and a lot of these things when they call them a zero-day exploit. Some of them you have to click a text select, you'll get a weird texts me. Like, what's that? If you click it, nothing happens. It might be installing spyware on your phone but these things are now so investigated. So Sophisticated, you don't even need to click on it. So it's kind of like you should always assume that your phone is completely act. Yes, did I answer your question? Did I answer your question in the back? 

To the next person. She had her hand up at of evil or whatever however you want. I'll answer all questions. 

She, you've already heard you've already heard this, right? 

Yeah basically. Yeah. Yeah. 

About this. I wish I was like you know but that's why I brought the 60-minute stuff to show you guys that I'm not just some weird guy up here talking about some you know strange 4chan you know conversation about Pegasus like no do this stuff is absolutely real. Yes ma'am. What do I do? You know? You get it or you don't.

What do you do? Don't let your children have access to cell phones. Do not let your kids play on video games without being supervised. Do not let them have headphones to do things. And these, you know, there really is, there's really not a, super easy answer. You have to be aware as a parent. How often is your kid alone with the internet? No more. You know what I mean? Like, I'm not, I am not that expert right now, I am here, I am the the person blowing the horn trying to tell you guys, what's up? There are no easy answers to this except just be aware and this is one of the thing and I I got your hand you're next. So what I found when I was on my my journey to try to figure out how I was going to create this, this simulation to get people to understand it. The first thing that I figured out was everything is about vulnerabilities. You have to understand that you are vulnerable. You have to understand where those vulnerabilities are. You have to acknowledge that when you can't, when you're like, oh, I'm having a real hard time paying rent. You should go, you know, what my vulnerabilities are up. I'm going to probably make some stupid decisions to make my rent payment right now. So it's like, if you can develop a muscle or a process of realizing, I am currently vulnerable, you know, you might be, you might be more interested in clicking on that little button that says, oh there's a, you know, some extra Coupons at the gas station, you're like cuz you're broken. You're you know, in your suffering, you can't, you can't feed yourself, you become more vulnerable, you have to be acknowledged it, and then get eye to eye contact with the people that you're communicating with. 

Is there a program to remove it? There are billions of dollars being spent so that programs that are meant to remove it are removed so that there's you can't spend enough money to stop this stuff. You just can you had your hand up? What do I think about life 360? 

So the, so the question is, what do I think about a program called Life 360, which gives the parent access to, everyone's information about where they are at any given time? I'm pretty sure that's not a good idea. But, you know, if it's a tool that you need, I mean maybe that's the thing that you maybe it's something that's working. If you're going to send the kid on a band trip, maybe you need to know. Where that kid is, you know? So I don't know, I don't have answers with for this stuff. I mean I'm literally just I'm uncovering this and I'm like, we got it. We got to tell everybody about this. We got that done. I'm not sure I answered your question. I would be very skeptical of the security of that based on the fact that even the things that are saying that they are absolutely secure, have no chance whatsoever against this, these type of tools, it's probably better than nothing. Yes, the question of I've been looking into and hearing about private third-party VPN such as Nord that encrypts the data and as more secure I'd like your input on that and also my opinion instead of telling kids. The worst thing I could do is tell my children they couldn't do something you know or tell them knowing that they just break their next time to do it. I agree. So I think early intervention, I think we need to bring this message to schools. Elementary schools and working for the yurok tribe report. I do work in the elementary schools I park at cycling through sixth grade with traditional storytelling. And now I'm going to be applying for another Grant and which I am going to create stories that we can work out with these young people, to print, their awareness and Empower them to recognize. And to import, I think that's, that's critical. And I think we need to do it sooner than later. So anyway, right real quick that was The statement but my question is about like nor PPN and the others. So the question is, what do I think about North VPN and things that hide your your IP address and things like that. So what VPN is short for virtual private Network? And what that means is that, what it's really trying to do is it's making us aware your computer that's sitting here. That is going through your router. What? The internet needs to know where you are so we can serve you things, right? What a VPN does is it takes your signal that goes to your router and then basically tells the internet that you're in a whole different location so the data is still going through there but it's masking your physical location so I have I use Norton VPN on my machines. I use it on my phone so that hopefully it's scrambled something. It's just a stopgap measure. It's something that's better than nothing. It's kind of like making sure that you have a, you know, one of those little Lock things on your own. Card your car, whatever that thing is called steering wheel. We have thank you. It's like that. Just makes them choose another car but if they want your car they're going to come get it. So I wish I had a better answer.

The question know that you're asking about. Thank you about kids in like forever. I think for most of us who have children, I have an eight-year-old and man pandemic, like like she got lost. Her parents were working on for 20 minutes a day, you know? No, so what do you do? Like how has left the bar right? Like so my children have this in their hands and I think it's a really important conversation to have that's open and honest about setting boundaries with the kids and also what markets do which is to have conversations with them about you're not allowed to talk other grown-ups in other grown-ups are asking for to pay for your Club. Penguin that's not okay, right? If they're trying to give you money on Xbox, that's not okay. And when that happens in Need You, Come and talk to me, that that's an expectation. And then also that you are checking on those expectations and that having technology is privileged, and I understand that that's very difficult. Because the thing I want my child to do the most, in this world is not talk to me sometimes, and so the screen is very, very helpful in but it is a privilege that can be taken away if they don't meet the expectations of your family's own. Some people allow pictures, some people don't allow pictures, not talking about naked pictures and talked about base pictures right there, children who have YouTube channels. Those are all decisions that you can make. Can I add to that? So your kids that are, they are posting vulnerabilities because there's going to be some guy on the internet that is going to come say, baby, you are beautiful. Let me take you out. So you need to watch the type of pictures that your kids are posting because what that does is post vulnerabilities.

So you guys can see that you have in this area in this room experts that can answer the questions for you that I can't. So be sure you utilize your community because this these are your team. They're going to try to help keep your community safe.

I'm going to stop because I want to be respectful rise time, but I have three things that I picked up. Over my my my travels.

So number one for children, teach them the proper name of their body parts. As soon as they speak whatever language you speak, they need to know that that is a penis or a vagina or their anus. They need to know those names so they can communicate to other people. If something happens when you have a child, that says he touched my lap means nothing. It is not helping second thing. 

Abuse and trafficking happens inside of families. So, tell your children three people that are outside of your family that you believe they can go to for help that will not would not narc on anybody. So if your kid needs to go and talk to somebody, they say my mom is abusing me or my dad is abusing me or whatever you need to make sure that person is not going to get it back to the family. So it's like find a teacher, a doctor, nurse, somebody outside of the family that you can that you can trust and say that is your “safe adult.” Everybody may have different opinions about how to do that but that is vitally important, too.

The third thing is there are no bad secrets. If somebody is trying to tell you to keep the secret from your family or somebody else, they need to go talk to their trusted adult.

So that's, that's it. I can, I'll be here all week, so I'll be here until Friday. I'll be here all day, helping with these things. I'll stay all night long. If you guys want to come over and try these things, I am here. I am here to help. Help. I'm available by phone. Tina has my numbers. Everything. Thank you.