The internet offers many enriching experiences and opportunities for children and adults alike to develop healthy relationships and to satisfy our natural curiosity about the world. However, it can also be exploited for ill. This is exemplified by the increasing volume and sophistication of harmful content online - ranging from extreme ideology groups’ hateful and violence-inciting messaging through to crypto-markets’ trafficking of illegal products and online child sexual abuse. Our challenge is to combat these manifestations of online harm, where communication is strategically deployed for nefarious purposes that can impact a lifetime.
Working alongside a committed team of linguists, criminologists and computer scientists, Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus conducts quantitative and qualitative analyses of the communicative (language / images) tactics used for cyber-crime manipulation. She specialises in tactics used for online jihadi radicalisation; for recruitment and community-building across extreme right groups’ social media channels; for deceptive trust-building to advance narcotics trafficking in crypto-drug markets; and for the sexual grooming of children online. Supported by funding from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), CHERISH-DE and The Leverhulme Trust, her work is designed to detect harmful content (and its authors) and to develop resilience-building measures. Consequent research-evidenced interventions are co-created and co-tested with key stakeholder groups (law enforcement, educators, social workers and policy makers) in Wales, the UK and internationally.
Of particular note within Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus’ work on digital manipulation is her 2021-2022 project DRAGON-S (Developing Resistance Against Grooming Online – Spot and Shield. Swansea University gratefully acknowledges financial support provided for this Programme by the End Violence Fund.
This project will offer tools based on integrating Artificial Intelligence/Linguistics to keep children safe online. Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus and her team have an unwavering commitment to putting ethical, innovative and implementable research at the service of collective efforts to develop individual and social resistance against the major challenge of keeping our children safe from sexual abuse online.