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How technology is disrupting sex trafficking


How technology is disrupting sex trafficking

WATCH | Actor Ashton Kutcher's non-profit, Thorn, is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to find and help sex trafficking victims in the United States.


Thorn was founded in 2010 by then-actor couple Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to apply advanced tech to the epidemic of sex trafficking. The company's two-year-old Spotlight software uses artificial intelligence and automated web searching to find and help victims.

With three out of every four solicitations of underage sex trafficking posted online, the organization has been able to help law enforcement solve sex trafficking cases an average of 60% faster, Thorn CEO Julie Cordua told Circa.

Sex trafficking online

Programs like Thorn and the one DARPA is developing leverage technology to detect otherwise unintelligible internet posts as trafficking ads.

How is Spotlight helping?

Cordua said there are more 150,000 escort ads posted online every day, but many feature distorted images, misleading info and misspellings, which make them hard to search by normal methods.

"The challenge we took on as an organization [was] to put some of the best and brightest minds in machine learning and natural language processing to look at these mounds of data and say, 'Are there clues in this data that tell you this is a child?'"

Our goal was find these kids faster, reduce the time and trauma.
Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn

Microsoft Makes PhotoDNA Available to Law Enforcement

Other tech companies are fighting trafficking

Microsoft’s PhotoDNA technology, introduced in 2009,  can scan any questionable online photo and tell whether it's part of a database of known child exploitation images.

And the United State Department of Defense's DARPA program is developing a web search tool similar to Spotlight that will search the anonymous dark web, where some human trafficking transactions are known to occur.

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