A UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate has developed the first automated techniques to identify adult ads tied to human trafficking rings by linking the ads to public information from Bitcoin — the primary payment method for online sex ads.
Cryptocurrency as bitcoin or ethereum digital internet currency economic concept as online electronic money transaction from a banking database market in a 3D illustration style.
The study is a first step toward developing a suite of freely available tools to help police and non-profit institutions use Bitcoin data to identify victims of sexual exploitation online.
Websites for online classified ads selling sex are widely used by human traffickers, but law enforcement efforts to trace and disband human trafficking rings are hindered by the pseudonymous nature of adult ads, the tendency of ring leaders to employ multiple phone numbers and email addresses to avoid detection and the difficulty in determining which online ads reflect willing participants in the sex trade and which reflect victims forced into prostitution. The study is a first step toward developing a suite of freely available tools to help police and non-profit institutions overcome these challenges and identify victims of sexual exploitation on websites such as Backpage and Craigslist, where ads for human trafficking are often found.