Ashton Kutcher's Technology-Led Organization Is Making Strides to Stop Child Sex Trafficking

The internet has made it easier for criminals to share child pornography with a low risk of getting caught. In fact, reports of child pornography have increased by 10,000 percent since 2004. Additionally, the internet houses the largest marketplace for child sex trafficking.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore knew that technology was playing a role in the problem but wasn’t yet part of the solution. They pioneered a technology-led approach, called Thorn, to end online child sexual abuse by identifying victims.

Thorn, which Kutcher and Moore started in 2012, now houses the first engineering and data science team that focuses solely on combating this powerful criminal industry.

Image courtesy of Thorn

One of their products, Safer, is designed to be easily integrated for platform owners who host user-generated content to prevent child sexual abuse material from spreading. And their flagship product, Spotlight, is used by law enforcement officers in all 50 U.S. states plus Canada to accelerate victim identification by more than 60 percent.

Spotlight uses Amazon Web Services-powered tools to identify victims. For example, phone numbers in ads are often posted as images instead of text, making it difficult to find them using conventional searches. But Amazon’s tool, DetectText, can extract the information from images so Thorn can find children based on their last known phone number.

Another tool allows Thorn to detect and match faces to images of missing and exploited children from open web data sources, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s register of missing children.

Through 2019, Spotlight has helped law enforcement agencies identify nearly 15,000 victims and nearly 17,000 criminals.

In August 2021, Kutcher launched a new wine brand called Outside Wine, which he describes as "outside the box". In the same vein as Paul Newman's focus on creating product that give back, the profits from Outside Wine will support nonprofit partners. A new charity will be added every 3 months. One of the first nonprofits supported will be Thorn.

A version of this story originally ran in The Unconventional Activism Edition of the Goodnewspaper in May 2020. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
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