Backpage Decoded

 ya good luck with that

ya good luck with that

Endless Emojis

The emojis on the Backpage adult listings might look cute & inviting at first; however, six particular emojis masqueraded as something else far more sinister. 

 Backpage adult listings. Image courtesy of The Downey Patriot.

Backpage adult listings. Image courtesy of The Downey Patriot.

Secret Sex Trafficking Code

 Someone's toot talking about Vice covering a story about new difficulties tracking criminals.

Someone's toot talking about Vice covering a story about new difficulties tracking criminals.

Seeing several toots from Switter regarding a Vice story about the difficulty of tracking down the traffickers ever since the shutdown of

Backpage and other sites caught my attention. Especially the emoji part because I'm sure many remember their computer screens glowing from the emojis in ad listings while browsing BP's adult section. 

Some of the emojis were a secret form of communication for buyers from traffickers. The emojis would indicate certain things about the victim being advertised. Things such as an incall only victim with restricted movement, if the victim is underage, and prices of their sexual services could be deciphered by the innocent emojis.

 

THE MAIN EMOJIS

There were six emojis that stood out as being the main indicators of trafficking. These included: Rose, cherry, cherry blossom, growing heart, airplane & crown.

 Innocent looking with a dark meaning. Image courtesy of  Skeptical World

Innocent looking with a dark meaning. Image courtesy of Skeptical World

  • The growing heart: Underage victim
  • Cherry/Cherry Blossom: Underage victim who's a virgin
  • Crown: Victim has a boss
    • Also indicates victim is under house arrest and buyer has to travel to them
  • Rose: The price of services
  • Airplanes: Victim won't be in town for long
 They weren't on a tour... Image courtesy of  Skeptical World

They weren't on a tour... Image courtesy of Skeptical World

We used the keywords that were indicators … ran the machine-learning software against the words and the emojis, and how they appeared in the ads, and were able to interpret what the emojis actually meant.
— Dr. Murray Jennex, San Diego State University
 Dude, I had no idea either...

Dude, I had no idea either...

Graduate student Jessica Whitney and her thesis advisor, Dr. Murray Jennex worked to decode the hidden language of trafficking.

After analyzing 8,000 Backpage ads in three California cities, the results were surprising since most of the ads contained emojis. This led Jennex to question the meaning behind the emojis.

The duo continued their research by using keywords that were indicators. They developed a machine-learning software to detect data of how the emojis were shown in the ads. Whitney went on to developing an algorithm to decipher their data.

What (the algorithm) does is … if you have the data, then you upload it into the program that I use, run the code that I wrote and then come back with results.
— Jessica Whitney, works in the IT department of a District Attorney's office

The algorithm even had the capability of adapting to any changes in language over time. It could sift through both ad listings of words and symbols such as emojis.

Read More
Emojis and Sex Trafficking: SDSU Researchers Crack the Code

2018 - No More Ads to Analyze

Jennex & Whitney even had plans to develop an automated monitoring tool as mentioned in the quote above; however, there aren't any Backpage adult ads to monitor anymore since the website is shutdown now in order to combat trafficking! 

An automated monitoring tool, if developed, could aid law enforcement officials in more quickly accurately locating potential victims and being able to monitor online ads in real-time.
— Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune

 

History Repeats Itself 

There's supposed to be an alleged fight to repeal this new illogical law this month. This isn't the first time the government has carelessly passed an ambiguous law. After they notice issues arising from its passing, they develop a bit of self-awareness upon realizing that they are idiots. I'm certain this particular history will continue to repeat itself. 

Read More
20 Years of Data Reveals Congress Doesn't Care What You Think

Look Closer

I always remember seeing those emojis on Backpage's listings. I would just mindlessly scroll through the page without even noticing an insidious underground exchanging right in front of me.

That scares me.

 

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