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SDSU Professor, Student Use Internet Marketing To Fight Human Trafficking

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SDSU Professor, Student Use Internet Marketing To Fight Human Trafficking

Audio

Aired 9/17/15

A San Diego Diego State professor and graduate student are fighting human trafficking by using the same internet marketing tools used by Google and Facebook.

San Diego State University Professor Murray Jennex is working to fight human trafficking by using the same internet marketing tools used by Google and Facebook.

Jennex said his graduate student, Marisa Hultgren, first proposed repurposing some marketing tools for law enforcement.

“The idea that she had, which we followed through on, was that we should be looking at online advertisements,” Jennex said.

The pair looked at about 5,000 internet ads from websites like Craigslist and Backpage. Jennex said they found victims everywhere.

“We looked at San Jose, a lot of cities here in California. They all have victims,” Jennex said. “They’re so beaten down that they basically do whatever they’re told. The people trafficking them tell them 'advertise yourself.'”

On its website , the FBI said people are being bought and sold like modern-day slaves. Jennex said this new way of fighting human trafficking will allow law enforcement to look at underworld business trends.

“The San Diego market tends to be more towards Middle Eastern ladies, L.A. was more toward the Pacific Islander and San Jose more on the Hispanic,” Jennex said.

The websites where these ads appear don't condone human trafficking and it is illegal, but criminals use code words in the ads that don’t appear to be illegal.

“Things that seem to indicate a low age, and are probably much lower, but doesn’t arouse the police to come and do something about it,” Jennex said.

He said using these business-research tools can bring human traffickers to justice.

“These people are truly exploitative,” Jennex said. “But, at the same time because we can identify their characteristics we can build profiles of who they are and use that to find them and capture the people who are doing the trafficking and free these people.”

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