Backpage and bitcoin: Uncovering human traffickers

Rebecca S. Portnoff, Danny Yuxing Huang, Periwinkle Doerfler, Sadia Afroz, Damon McCoy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Sites for onlineclassified ads selling sex are widely used by human traffickers to support their pernicious business. The sheer quantity of ads makes manual exploration and analysis unscalable. In addition, discerning whether an ad is advertising a trafficked victim or an independent sex worker is a very difficult task. Very little concrete ground truth (i.e., ads definitively known to be posted by a trafficker) exists in this space. In this work, we develop tools and techniques that can be used separately and in conjunction to group sex ads by their true owner (and not the claimed author in the ad). Specifically, we develop a machine learning classifier that uses stylometry to distinguish between ads posted by the same vs. different authors with 90% TPR and 1% FPR. We also design a linking technique that takes advantage of leakages from the Bitcoin mempool, blockchain and sex ad site, to link a subset of sex ads to Bitcoin public wallets and transactions. Finally, we demonstrate via a 4-week proof of concept using Backpage as the sex ad site, how an analyst can use these automated approaches to potentially find human traffickers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationKDD 2017 - Proceedings of the 23rd ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Pages1595-1604
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450348874
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 13 2017
Event23rd ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, KDD 2017 - Halifax, Canada
Duration: Aug 13 2017Aug 17 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining
VolumePart F129685

Other

Other23rd ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, KDD 2017
CountryCanada
CityHalifax
Period8/13/178/17/17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems

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