National Science Foundation awards Assistant Professor Laurie Giddens nearly $300,000 to research online illicit activities

May 2022 News_5.png

​​​​​​​The National Science Foundation has awarded Assistant Professor Laurie Giddens with a $298,284 grant to facilitate research efforts aimed at examining how technology is used to facilitate, detect and disrupt illicit activities online.

The grant, titled, “Enabling Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Using NLP to Identify Suspicious Transactions in Omnichannel Online C2C Marketplaces” will dive into illicit behaviors with the help of three of her collaborators: Dr. Pablo Rivas and Dr. Stacie Petter from Baylor University and Dr. Gisela Bichler from California State University in San Bernardino.

“This project is interesting for us because we are expanding what we know about sex trafficking to other illicit activities that occur online in consumer-to-consumer websites, which is the sale of stolen goods,” explained Giddens. “This project team was developed during another NSF grant I currently have where we built a multidisciplinary to team of academics and anti-trafficking professionals to examine the use of technology used in human trafficking supply networks.”

In addition to working with her fellow researchers, Giddens will also be joining forces with nonprofit intelligence organization DeliverFund and law enforcement experts, to identify human trafficking in escort ads and to help
detect stolen auto parts online in consumer-to-consumer sites.

“We are examining which policies of online C2C marketplace platforms enable illicit trade to flourish and we will also use natural language processing (NLP) to identify sellers offering illegally trafficked goods or services on legitimate websites” said Giddens.

The research will begin this month and continue through April 30, 2024.