RESEARCH TITLE: Human trafficking, digitalisation and a global pandemic: how has technology changed the face of human trafficking?

Abstract: The advent of a global pandemic has had numerous consequences on people and, more in general, on society. During this year of isolation and/or reduced social interactions, society turned toward technology to find a substitute and a tool to stay engaged and entertained. During this period level of stress, isolation and depression, also due to a looming economic crisis, have reached new highs, affecting, in particular, the most endangered and exposed parts of society. Law enforcement agencies and charity group around the UK have advocated and highlighted that this pandemic will affect in particular young and vulnerable individuals.

Hence, this PhD research aims to look at the consequences and effects of human trafficking during this pandemic and the adaptability of this illicit crime enterprise to the new era of digitalisation and the high volume of vulnerable individuals. Feelings of isolation and an economic crisis are very dangerous when combined and easy to be exploited by traffickers. Thus, this project aims to find answers to whether and how criminal enterprise has adapted in order to reach these individuals world-wide; to understand if human trafficking has reached a new level of sophistication by incorporating technology in their business model. By focusing on modus operandi, psychological manipulation techniques and decision-making in relation to technological engagement, this research aims to look at the way digital interaction occurs from an offender point of view.

About Francesca – click here to [read more] I have a background in Forensic Psychology and Political science with a focus on policy analysis and research methods. Currently, I am a PhD candidate in the Dawes Centre for Future Crime at UCL, with a project focused on understanding the impacts of technology and global pandemic on the human trafficking criminal enterprise. Recently, I have been working closely with law enforcement agencies, on international and domestic online sex trafficking.

In January 2021, I was awarded the Best Dissertation Award from the Political Science department at UCL for my work on evaluating the Modern Slavery Act. My work was conducted using only open-sources data and showed the changes in reporting and investigating domestic human trafficking in the UK in a 10-year period. This research is currently under further revision for publication and conference presentation.

In the past, I worked in collaboration with multiple NGOs, including StopTheTraffik, as part of the Traffik Analysis Hub, and the Sophie Hayes Foundation, as a policy analyst and researcher. [/read]

Graduate teaching assistant in: Crime & Society

Insights by Francesca

Francesca is a PhD researcher funded by the Dawes Centre for Future Crime at UCL


Languages spoken: English & Italian