The Invisibility of Online Slavery


  • Zack Dillon Verham University of Virginia


Human Trafficking, Internet, Media


Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that strips its victims of basic human dignity. It is a global pandemic, impacting geographically and socioeconomically diverse communities. Academic scholars have responded to sex trafficking by analyzing its state as a global network, and have repeatedly argued that the Internet plays an integral role in modern sex trafficking and that the Internet is being shaped by current trafficking practice. However, books, film, and news articles often fail to recognize the intimate connection between the Internet and sex trafficking, focusing instead on the physical constraints and geographical dislocation of trafficking victims. If the Internet is referenced in these sources, it is treated as an outside actor that enables trafficking, but that is not itself influenced by its interactions with trafficking. My research consisted of analyzing the body of literature created by STS scholars and other academics and analyzing representative case studies from public media. I argue that the Internet's ephemeral nature, its momentum as a deregulated system, and its global ubiquity all contribute to public media's general failure to depict it as an integral component of the trafficking network. In response to these problems, which inhibit the accurate depiction of the role technology plays in sex trafficking, I propose that Internet trafficking must be made tangible in local discourse despite its inherent ephemerality, and that there must be an investigation of the effectiveness of U.S. policy regarding Internet regulation as it applies to individual privacy concerns.

Author Biography

Zack Dillon Verham, University of Virginia

I am a fourth year student who is completing a B.S. in Computer Science.






Research Articles