From the Street Corner to the Digital World: How the Digital Age Impacts Sex Trafficking Detection and Data Collection

Brent Skaggs, Shane Kimble, Jennifer Middleton, Michael Losavio & Theresa Hayden | September 22 | 4:00 - 5:00 PM | Auditorium 

Although sex trafficking has been a social issue long before the conception of the Internet, the arrival of a world-wide network has increased sex traffickers’ reach and anonymity, potential victims’ vulnerability, and buyers’ selection. Via the Internet, sex traffickers can advertise trafficking victims anywhere in the world. When the trafficker decides to relocate the victim, they can easily change the name and number associated with the victim online. Traffickers can link the victim’s contact information to a “burner” cell phone that authorities are often unable to connect with a real identity. However, data mining initiatives allow law enforcement agencies and researchers to gather and analyze data from webpages that potentially contain sex trafficking information. For example, DARPA created the Memex program in order to index the data from webpages on the Deep Web. The Memex program shares similarities with popular search engines, which index the webpages that most users access every day. Gathering and analyzing data in new ways will allow for a greater understanding of how sex trafficking is being performed in the digital world, by providing insight into the modus operandi of sex traffickers, and providing valuable information about the victims themselves.


Presentation Objectives:

·         To describe how the advent of the digital age has influenced sex trafficking, as well as sex trafficking prevalence data;

·         To articulate the difficulty of tracking and collecting information about sex traffickers online;

To explain several possible solutions being implemented to aid researchers and law enforcement agencies.

About the Presenters