View the Institute's investigations site to see the full scope of our investigative reporting on human trafficking and modern-day slavery, with multi-media, picture slideshows, and more.

Human Trafficking
  & Modern-Day Slavery

Featured Projects
Selected Articles

According to economist and sociologist Kevin Bales, more people are enslaved today than at any time in human history. Because the specific number is difficult to pin down, there are a range of estimates. Bales, whose research focuses on this problem, has concluded there are as many as 27 million in just about every country in the world. They are forced to work without pay, under threat of violence, and unable to walk away. They are forced to work in such areas as agriculture, fishing, gravel pits, mines, restaurants, domestic service, and brothels. Although slavery today is not as obvious as it once was, human beings are enslaved all over the world—including in the United States.

Unfortunately, journalists do not always report accurately or thoroughly on the contemporary realities, laws, practices, and perceptions of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. At a time when resources for journalism are dwindling, few reporters can afford to invest the time needed to cover human trafficking responsibly and thoroughly. That’s a problem—because reporters’ uninformed decisions about which stories to tackle and what language to use can influence public discussion and policy. In response, the Schuster Institute is shining a spotlight on the subject of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. 

Featured Projects

"Underground Trade: From Boston to Bangkok" is a WGBH eight-part investigation by Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Phillip Martin into human trafficking, from East Asia to New York to New England. ​

Special Report: Human Trafficking Underground Trade: From Boston to Bangkok

Human Trafficking Stories from Boston to Bangkok; the WGBH eight-part investigation

Senior Fellow E. Benjamin Skinner (2009 - 2013) became thoroughly immersed in the details of the subject in researching his book, "A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern-Day Slavery" (Free Press, 2008), and was dedicated full time to covering today’s trade in human beings. Skinner conducted investigations delving into the modern day slavery of Indonesia’s palm oil and New Zealand’s fishing industries. 

Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry Rife with Human-Rights Abuses

Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry Rife with Human-Rights Abuses, Bloomberg

"Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry Rife With Human-Rights Abuses," E. Benjamin Skinner, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 18, 2013

View the full investigation

Slavery in Your Seafood


"The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch," E. Benjamin Skinner, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 20, 2012

View the Full Investigation

Role of Journalists in Exposing Slavery

Now, examples of undercover reporting about slavery are collected in a unique database created by Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Brooke Kroeger, author of "Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception." These first-hand accounts transport us from Horace Greeley's New York Tribune of the 1840s to NBC's Dateline of the present day.

View more collected resources on the role journalists have played in exposing slavery throughout history.

Selected Articles

Sex Trafficking - Boston Globe

Her 15-year-old daughter fell prey to a sex trafficker” Janelle Nanos, Boston Globe Magazine, Feb. 2, 2017

Human Trafficking victims, Boston Globe

High court rejects case by sex-traffickng victims against Backpage"
Janelle Nanos, Boston Globe, Jan. 9, 2017

Sex Trafficking Allegations

Back Page Dot Com Back Paddles In Face Of Sex Trafficking Allegations,” Phillip Martin, WGBH, Jan. 11, 2017

Arrest of CEO in Connection with Human Trafficking Backpage Potentially Slammed Shut By Arrest Of CEO In Connection With Human Trafficking” Phillip Martin, WGBH Boston Public Radio, Oct. 18, 2016
How do we Stop Human Trafficking Today? What does human trafficking look like today? How do we stop it?”, Phillip Martin, PRI, Nov. 9, 2015 
Hillary Clinton at the Siem Reap Center "How U.S. Budget Cuts Prolong Global Slavery," E. Benjamin Skinner,, June 28, 2011
Britain's Long Fight Against Slavery "Britain's Long Fight Against Slavery," E. Benjamin Skinner, Huffington Post, May 2, 2011
Dallas Cowboys Stadium "Sex (Trafficking) and the Super Bowl," E. Benjamin Skinner, Huffington Post, February 8, 2011
Sex trafficking and forced prostitution, Johannesburg "Modern-Day Slavery: A 'Necessary' Beat with Different Challenges," E. Benjamin Skinner, Nieman Reports, Winter 2010
Embassy Row, Washington, D.C. by Dave Reid "Modern-Day Slavery on Washington's Embassy Row?" E. Benjamin Skinner, Time, June 14, 2010

New Slave Trade, South Africa

"South Africa's New Slave Trade and the Campaign to Stop It," E. Benjamin Skinner, Time, January 18, 2010

Pakistan's Indentured Servants

"Pakistan's Forgotten Plight: Modern-Day Slavery," October 27, 2009, Time.


Need to Know on PBS interview with E. Benjamin Skinner on the world of modern-day slavery, June 17, 2011.

Larry King focuses on human trafficking with Julia Ormond, Mira Sorvino, Dan Rather, and E. Benjamin Skinner

"Human Trafficking in America," CNN's Larry King Live, October 18, 2010. Schuster Institute Senior Fellow E. Benjamin Skinner joined Julia Ormond, Mira Sorvino, and Dan Rather on Larry King Live to discuss the growing epidemic of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Skinner speaks on ESPN "Concerns raised about illegal sex trade," ESPN, June 6, 2010. Examines allegations of a rise in human trafficking resulting from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.



"Human Trafficking in Black & Brown & Beyond"

Senior Fellow Phillip Martin organized a panel on reporting "Human Trafficking in Black & Brown & Beyond" for the annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which took place  Aug. 5 in Washington, D.C. Founding Director Florence Graves was also on the panel to discuss the Schuster Institute's Human Trafficking & Modern-Day Slavery project. Among Martin's many stories on human trafficking is his award-winning series "From Boston to Bangkok" in collaboration with the Schuster Institute. 

Phillip Martin speaking at a podium

Photo of Phillip Martin by Sandy Bergo

© 2017 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 02454. All rights reserved.