University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review


Olivia Parise

Document Type



There seems to be an emoji for every expression, thought, and feeling – even for human traffickers. Emojis have evolved into a primary lexicon for online human trafficking. This coded language has allowed online human traffickers to evade detection and prosecution. Courts and law enforcement are confused by the seemingly innocent use of emojis in advertisements and conversations that have serious human trafficking implications. Now, the code is cracked. Researchers have studied the intersection of emojis and human trafficking to such an extent that they have caught on to the secret online language of emojis. As the use of emojis for online human trafficking is more commonly understood among the public, it could mean liability for websites that previously enjoyed protection under the law for their roles in human trafficking. This note explores the use of emojis in online human trafficking, the actual implications it has on law enforcement and the court in prosecuting human traffickers, and potential liability for website owners under The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (FOSTA-SESTA).