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Thursday, September 23, 2021

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Jessica Whitney (left) and SDSU professor Murray Jennex Jessica Whitney (left) and SDSU professor Murray Jennex

SDSU Professor Honored as “Hero” By Anti-Human Trafficking Organization

SDSU professor Murray Jennex and alumna Jessica Whitney were recognized for their research on online human trafficking ads.
By Suzanne Finch

San Diego State University management information systems professor Murray Jennex and alumna Jessica Whitney (’15) were honored as “mission heroes” by Soroptimists Together Against Trafficking (STAT!) for “making a difference in the fight against human trafficking.” The ceremony recognizing Jennex, Whitney and four other honorees was held Friday, Jan. 26, in San Diego.

Jennex and Whitney devised a “knowledge management system,” which determined how traffickers were using a series of emojis as code in online classified ads posted in Backpage, an online search engine specifically for classified ads. For example, a cherry or a growing heart means that a trafficking victim may be underage. The research showed that emojis were used to make it more difficult for law enforcement to recognize trafficking ads as they searched for keywords in the text.

This research methodology has been shared with a number of law enforcement agencies including district attorneys in New York, Texas and locally in San Diego.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized by STAT! for our efforts in devising a system that recognizes and identifies the perpetrators of human trafficking,” said Jennex. “It is gratifying to know that the knowledge management system we employed was able to crack the code criminals were using to advertise their victims. Jessica and I look forward to continuing to share our findings with law enforcement organizations as they work to combat the scourge of human trafficking internationally.”

Knowledge management is defined as the gathering and systematic organization of data to determine vital information about an organization or subject matter. Jennex was recently named by Scopus as the world’s most published researcher in field of knowledge management.