Monitoring Human Trafficking in Displaced Populations

Open Access
Lesniewski, Matthew James
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 03, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Andrea H Tapia, Thesis Advisor
  • human trafficking
  • text mining
  • social network analysis
  • mapping
  • twitter
  • social media
  • Syria
When people hear the word “slavery,” it conjures images of a terrible scourge on human history. They think of a despicable act perpetrated by human beings through the course of ancient and contemporary history, but history nonetheless. The sad reality is that slavery is alive and well in modern society. Dubbed “human trafficking” in lieu of more telling designations, forced labor and sexual exploitation have pervaded the human experience in higher volumes than any other point in recorded history. In this paper, I explore human trafficking through the lens of a timely and relevant case study – Syria, in the midst of a bloody civil war and a massive humanitarian crisis, provides a number of challenges and difficult questions for humanitarian organizations and governments to ponder. Among those issues, human trafficking among displaced persons looms large. Humanitarian organizations, governments and other interested parties (such as the open-source mapping community) are actively involved in collecting data on the Syrian refugee crisis. However, given the difficulties inherent in monitoring trafficking cases, nothing significant has surfaced. Using basic text mining, social network analysis, and mapping techniques to investigate the crisis through social media posts, my findings seek a proof-of-concept for counter-trafficking in persons (CTIP) methods going forward. It may be possible, in future work, to augment the traditional monitoring process for counter-trafficking in persons using electronic traces mined automatically from the Internet.