These are the powerful words of Ashton Kutcher, the co-founder of THORN . THORN was founded in 2012 and is an organisation whose aim is to stop human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. THORN develops innovative technologies that are used to identify, search for & rescue victims; additionally, these same technologies are used by law enforcement agencies around the world to track down human traffickers and bring them closer to apprehension.There is a dark side of the internet, a dark side to humanity. A frontier where only the very brave among us dare to tread, today we celebrate the heroes at THORN who help us sleep a bit better every night. Heroes who see unimaginable horrors and the darkest side of humanity but still raise up every day- making sure every victim has a chance at a happy, free and fulfilling life. More importantly, today, every other day, forevermore we celebrate the survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, they are still standing strong, showing us resilience and depth of strength that we can only aspire to. Today we burn a candle for all those victims who we are still missing, some of whom we will never find but for whom we will never stop searching.We are honoured to have THORN as Cause of the Month on Spendow!
Let's Get to Know THORN a bit more...
“Technology can be used to enable slavery but it can also be used to disable slavery, and that is what we are doing” Ashton Kutcher co-founder, February 2017, Washington, DC.
THORN is a technology company, founded on the realisation that technological innovations can be harnessed in the fight to end child sexual abuse. Ashton Kutcher, with then-wife, Demi More knew they had to do something. In 2012 they watched a harrowing documentary on child sexual exploitation in Cambodia. There are things about the world, which when you discover, totally alter how you see the world and process reality. For Kutcher, it was this moment of shocked-clarity that sowed the seeds of what would eventually be THORN.
Back in 2012, Kutcher unleashed his Rolodex and called upon leading tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Twitter for technical guidance, he dug again into his network seeking out the leadership insights of organisations such as the Clinton Global Initiative and his CEO Julie Cordua. It is evident, with such resources to call upon coupled with the resolve of the founders, THORN has evolved into a highly impactful organisation giving young children and women around the world their lives back.
The first product that came out of THORN was a tool to assist law enforcement agencies with sifting through a lot of online data to identify potential sexual predators. This product was offered for free to law enforcement, an approach that was so innovative and progressive, that it bypassed many bureaucratic hurdles that usually prevented government agencies from innovating. The impact of THORN was immediate, to date, more than 8 victims of trafficking are identified per day, leading to the successful identification and arrest of 10496 Traffickers. These numbers are from the 2018 Impact Report.
The great thing about THORN is the use of data analysis to get a better understanding of situations, circumstances, locations, trends that incubate these abhorrent activities. By analysing tons of data and getting more qualitative insights from survivors, it became clear to THORN that this was a complex issue. An issue that is closely tied with socio-political issues that cut across the fabric of society. For example, immigrant communities, live below the poverty line, theyoften have access to poor resources for self upliftment. This kinds of circumstances put women and young children, the most vulnerable members of these society, at higher risk of human trafficking. This means tackling migration and coming up with a viable solution to uplift migrant communities will surely result in a reduction of risky behaviours that foster exploitation. I am just scratching the surface on the immense capabilities and insights that THORN has developed in this space.
What tools has THORN developed?
Because of the unique approach to the use of its tools in the governmental sector as well as the collaborations it fosters in the private sector. THORN has been able to steadily grow the use of its products across the world. Two main tools are offered in the fight to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children
“It is the greatest tool we have against child trafficking”
Spotlight helps find kids faster. The internet has a dark underbelly where young children are bought and sold. Think of the seedy but seemingly harmless escort ads on various forums on the internet, masked inside these ads are child trafficking rings. Every day 150000 escort ads are posted, law enforcement does hot have the resources to monitor all these ads. Spotlight can rapidly sift through these ads and identify suspect postings, this saves a lot of time and is more accurate than a human being. This is just one aspect of what Spotlight can do. Spotlight is hailed as the best tech tool available in fighting domestic sex trafficking and abuse. 10 kids identified daily, 16,927 traffickers identified, and a total of 14874 kids identified. This is real work and real impact.
Helps companies flag and delete any images or content that references child sexual abuse. Many platforms on the internet are at risk of being used by traffickers for their activities. Safer is a self-learning algorithm that teaches itself and gets better over time, this ensures it can evolve and stay ahead of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
How big is THORN?
THORN is used by almost 9000 law enforcement agencies around the world. This is based on more than 70 partnership with Tech and Non-Profit companies. More than 400 experienced engineers volunteer their time to help build up the technology. More than 2000 donors of all sizes support the THORN initiative.
Is this Hollywood philanthropy “Ashton Kutch Philanthropy” or is it legit?
THORN is the real deal. The fact that Ashton Kutcher was able to use his platform, his smarts and his network to create a formidable force for good is commendable to the highest degree. The same creativity required in his original artform acting finds expression at its interface with technology.
Read more on THORN here
How widespread is Child Abuse?
In 2004 there were 450 000 files containing sexual abuse material, today more than 70 million files containing sexual abuse victims are being analysed for missing victims. About 1 in every 7 runaway kids end up being victims of sex trafficking. (US Statistics)
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