But of all the things he’s done, it might be his recent work as an activist on behalf of sexually exploited children and victims of human trafficking in the US that he is most proud of.
This week at the Dreamforce technology convention held in San Francisco, Kutcher took the stage to speak about how his company, Thorn, is using technology to help identify victims and perpetrators of sexual exploitation on the internet.
“We’ve identified 6,000 children that are being abused,” he said. “We’ve identified 12,000 adults that are also being abused.”
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Started by Kutcher and his ex-wife Demi Moore in 2009, Thorn is an innovative technology company that seeks to connect government and NGO agencies with tech companies to develop cutting-edge tools to identify instances of sexual exploitation online.
Thorn initially began its research by compiling statistics about instances of sexual exploitation to find patterns that might be leveraged into solutions. Thorn partners with a task force of companies — including industry giants Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Snapchat — all of whom have pledged to work together to find technological solutions that help protect vulnerable people from being sexually exploited on the internet.
This led to the development of tools like their Spotlight feature, a data-analytics program that has assisted in over 8,300 investigations by identifying advertisements for sexual encounters online.
Thorn also created a service for victims of sexual exploitation to easily contact law enforcement agencies via text, as well as a cloud network that helps notify investigative bodies if content they are reviewing has been previously brought to the attention of other agencies .
The Huffington Post reported in 2013 that child pornography brings in about $3 billion in revenue every year, and about half of the illicit materials distributed globally are in the US. Sex trafficking is an even more lucrative business, earning about $99 billion yearly according to the women and girls’ charity Equality Now. The organization also reports that 96% of these victims are women and girls.
The US Department of State noted that recent proliferations of technology have led to huge increases of exploitation online. Mobile phones, with a growing number of social media and engagement apps, have given perpetrators of these crimes increased access to children whom they seek to exploit through psychological and economic means.
Technological solutions to this troubling problem, like Thorn’s, could be the key to reducing instances of sexual exploitation enabled by the internet.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and eliminating the online sexual exploitation of women and girls around the word falls under the goals of achieving good health and well being (goal 3), and gender equality (goal 4). You can take action on these issues here.
Kutcher emphasized the role of technology in both the problems and potential solutions to sexual exploitation in his speech to the Dreamforce audience.
“Technology isn’t a force for good, or a force for evil,” he said. “It’s just a tool.”