Workshop Proceedings of the 18th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media

Workshop: Data for the Wellbeing of Most Vulnerable

DOI: 10.36190/2024.27

Published: 2024-06-01
Tracing the Unseen: Uncovering Human Trafficking Patterns in Job Listings
Siyi Zhou, Jiankun Peng, Emilio Ferrara

In the shadow of the digital revolution, the insidious issue of human trafficking has found new breeding grounds within the realms of social media and online job boards. Previous research efforts have predominantly centered on identifying victims via the analysis of escort advertisements. However, our work shifts the focus towards enabling a proactive approach: pinpointing potential traffickers before they lure their preys through false job opportunities. In this study, we collect and analyze a vast dataset comprising over a quarter million job postings collected from eight relevant regions across the United States, spanning nearly two decades (2006-2024). The job boards we considered are specifically catered towards Chinese-speaking immigrants in the US. We classify the job posts into distinct groups based on the self-reported information of the posting user. Our investigation into the types of advertised opportunities, the modes of preferred contact, and the frequency of postings uncovers the patterns characterizing suspicious ads. Additionally, we highlight how external events such as health emergencies and conflicts appear to strongly correlate with increased volume of suspicious job posts: traffickers are more likely to prey upon vulnerable populations in times of crises. This research underscores the imperative for a deeper dive into how online job boards and communication platforms could be unwitting facilitators of human trafficking. More importantly, it calls for the urgent formulation of targeted strategies to dismantle these digital conduits of exploitation.