This study explores the online linguistic contours of hard-to-observe crimes through a rigorous mixed-methods approach that combines interviews and computational text analysis.
Since many types of crime are difficult to study because they are difficult to operationalize, hidden from the public, or both, with communication increasingly moving to online domains, recent work has begun to examine whether the online domain contains traces of such hard-to-observe crimes. Using human trafficking in illicit massage businesses as a proof-of-concept, the authors show how this approach, which we call semi-inductive triangulation, meets the empirical contextuality and relationality of crime traces in the online domain. The findings contribute to an emerging field of computational criminology and call for an integration of linguistic approaches in criminology.
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