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Frequently asked questions about the Trafficking Inc. investigation

What sort of trafficking does this investigation cover? Are there any leaked files? How can I send ICIJ tips? These questions and more, answered.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists began publishing its Trafficking Inc. investigation in October 2022, and will continue publishing stories in 2023 in partnership with media outlets from around the world over the coming months.

What is the Trafficking Inc. investigation?

Trafficking Inc. is an investigation into human trafficking in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the United States. ICIJ and its media partners are working to bring to light untold stories of hardship and abuse suffered by trafficked people — and expose the networks of companies, individuals and business practices that set the traps and profit from them.

What sort of trafficking does this investigation cover?

Trafficking Inc., focuses on two forms of human trafficking: labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Both involve using force, fraud or coercion to induce someone to work or provide a service. These forms of trafficking frequently involve people being exploited by recruiters and employers who use their poverty, isolation and immigration status against them — often threatening them with violence, arrest or deportation or ensnaring them in oppressive debts.

What are some of the major findings of Trafficking Inc. so far?

Some of the stories published in 2022 revealed that many foreign workers for defense contractors on U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf have been targets of abusive labor practices — including illegal recruiting fees that force migrants who are paid as little as $1 an hour to work for years before they’ve paid off their debts. Other stories produced by the reporting partnership in 2022 highlighted flaws in U.S. protections for trafficked workers and the failure of Massachusetts authorities to punish labor traffickers who prey on vulnerable workers.

A story copublished in June 2023 by ICIJ and Reuters examined sex trafficking between Nigeria and other African nations and the United Arab Emirates. The story was based on court records and other documents and interviews with 25 African women who described being lured to the UAE by traffickers along with dozens of interviews with humanitarian workers, investigators, Nigerian government officials and others with knowledge of sex trafficking in the Emirates.

Stories published in October 2023 showed how major American corporations profit, directly or indirectly, from employment practices that may amount to labor trafficking, which is defined as using force, coercion or fraud to induce someone to work or provide service. ICIJ spoke with nearly 100 migrant laborers from Asia who told ICIJ that they’ve been subjected to repressive labor practices while working at Persian Gulf locations of four well-known American and British brands: Amazon, McDonald’s, Chuck E. Cheese and InterContinental Hotels Group. The four companies told ICIJ that they were taking the revelations seriously.

What news outlets are involved in this reporting partnership?

The investigative team includes journalists from ICIJ, Reuters, NBC News, WGBH Boston, The Washington Post, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Guardian US and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Are there any leaked files behind the Trafficking Inc. investigation?

While there isn’t a specific leaked database behind this investigation, ICIJ and its reporters have been receiving documents and other evidence from multiple countries.

How do I get in touch with ICIJ if I want to share a tip or leak documents?

ICIJ ​encourages​ ​whistleblowers​ ​to ​submit​ ​all​ ​forms​ ​of​ ​content​ ​that​ ​might​ ​be​ ​of​ ​public​ ​concern​ ​—​ ​documents,​ ​photos, video​ ​clips​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​story​ ​tips — and to do so securely. We​ ​accept​ ​all​ ​information​ ​that​ ​relates​ ​to​ ​potential​ ​wrongdoing​ ​by​ ​corporate,​ ​government​ ​or public​ ​service​ ​entities​ ​in​ ​any​ ​country,​ ​anywhere​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world.​ ​We​ ​do​ ​our​ ​utmost​ ​to​ ​guarantee the​ ​confidentiality​ ​of​ ​our​ ​sources. Please email, or explore other ways to contact us securely.

What is the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)?

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is a donor-supported investigative news outlet and consortium of reporters and media partners who work together to tell stories that rock the world.

ICIJ works with the biggest and the smallest media organizations in the world to do the watchdog journalism they used to do alone. We retain a network of trusted journalists, which has grown by invitation to more than 290 of the best investigative reporters from more than 100 countries and territories.

Do you have a story about corruption, fraud, or abuse of power?

ICIJ accepts information about wrongdoing by corporate, government or public services around the world. We do our utmost to guarantee the confidentiality of our sources.

How does ICIJ choose its investigation partners?

When bringing together a collaboration, ICIJ begins by assessing available data and identifying areas of reporting need, with a particular focus on engaging journalists in countries where we know there will be important stories and strong public interest. We then prioritize finding partners with proven investigative records, who we can trust to work discreetly, collaboratively and respectfully with reporters from around the world.

ICIJ is dedicated to ensuring all reports we publish are accurate. If you believe you have found an inaccuracy let us know.