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

Professor Murray Jennex and his former student, Jessica Whitney, recognized by STAT! for their research on online human trafficking ads

Management information systems professor, Murray Jennex, and his former student, SDSU graduate, Jessica Whitney 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 on Friday, January 26 in San Diego. 

SDSU grad, Jessica Whitney and Dr. Murray Jennex display their STAT! Hero awards.

SDSU grad, Jessica Whitney and Dr. Murray Jennex display their STAT! Hero awards

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. 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 look for key words in the text of the ads.

The research methodology has been shared with a number of law enforcement agencies including the district attorneys for the states of New York and Texas, as well as the district attorney’s office 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 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 organization as they work to combat the scourge of human trafficking on an international basis.”

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.