Working group: Unweaving the Web of Online Human Trafficking

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 9:00am
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Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 9:00am to 5:00pm

Internet and online networking sites are used both for the recruitment of trafficked people and for advertising their services. Researchers at Dundee University, St Andrews, Northumbria and Central European University are addressing how Internet and online social networks are increasingly used in human trafficking, in a scoping study funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Scottish Crucible scheme.

The increasing accessibility and technical advantages of internet technologies and digital networks (including social networking sites and online classified websites) enable traffickers to operate with increased efficiency and anonymity in reaching out to larger audiences across geographical borders: both recruiting people and selling services provided by trafficked men, women and children.  However, as Latonero observes, 'the extent to which online technologies are used in both sex and labour trafficking is unclear…little research is available on the role of online classified and social networking sites in human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Online (Download)

This project will address the topic through:

  • Analysing a sample of trafficking-related online messages in order to consider key themes coming out of this material.
  • Interviews (both face-to-face and online) with key actors and stakeholders: to further explore how human trafficking interacts with online networks, to access data which are not accessible through desk-based research and to identify research needs of external audiences.
  • Data mining of human trafficking adverts on key social networks (Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter), search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), online advertisements, chat rooms and spam emails in order to clarify the extent and nature of the problem.  The data mining will draw on the qualitative work, in order to elucidate key terms and sites for research.

This research serves as a scoping study in preparation for a larger cross-national collaborative project to be designed and submitted for funding review in 2014-2015.

What is Human Trafficking Represented to Be? (Download)
Presentation by Kiril Sharapov


For more information, contact:

Dr Kiril Sharapov, Centre for Policy Studies, Central European University or

Dr Jonathan Mendel, University of Dundee, Jonathan Mendel