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Study: Sex Traffickers Use Emojis In Online Ads To Avoid Detection

Study: Sex Traffickers Use Emojis In Online Ads To Avoid Detection


Murray Jennex, Ph.D., professor of management information systems, San Diego State University


Sex traffickers go to extraordinary lengths to disguise their activities, even while they are advertising to the public.

Research out of San Diego State University suggests that while law enforcement searches internet ads for keywords indicating sex trafficking, they should also look for certain coded emojis.

Murray Jennex, Ph.D., who is a professor of management information systems at San Diego State University, led the study. He translated some of the meanings behind the coded emojis.

"And it turned out that when we did the research with the keywords the patterns also came up with the emojis. So we were able to, like a rosetta stone, understand what the emojis meant by looking at the keywords," Jennex said.

He said they figured out a nested heart emoji signifies a minor victim is being offered for sex, while a cherry emoji signifies that minor victim is a virgin.

Jennex said traffickers are using emojis in place of words in online ads as a way to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Jennex joins Midday Edition on Tuesday to discuss the findings of his latest research.

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