Children are the most vulnerable population in the world. Even the most vigilant of parents cannot watch their children at all times. Every country suffers from kidnapping, although certain countries have much higher rates than others. For example, in 2015, Lebanon held the highest rate of 16.9 per 100,000 people kidnapped. The reasons for kidnapping children vary drastically, but one of them is human trafficking. This abhorrent practice has been going on for far too long, but with modern technology, there are organizations developing ways to stop it through anti-human trafficking software. Thorn is an organization founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to defend children from human trafficking and sexual abuse.
Digital Defenders of Children
As a digital platform dedicated to ending child trafficking, “Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children” concentrates on the role internet plays in facilitating child pornography and child sexual slavery internationally. By putting its efforts towards reclaiming the battleground for a better future of the world’s youth, Thorn is using digital technology to track down victims of sex trafficking and child pornography as well as those who facilitate it.
And, even though some communities get targeted for “easier access,” child sexual abuse is not confined to any one group. Online pornographic images and videos involve both girls and boys from 0-18 years old with diverse backgrounds. In one of their reports for tipline, “the Canadian Centre for Child Protection found that children under 12 years old were depicted in 78.3 percent of the images and videos assessed by their team, and 63.4 percent of those children were under 8 years of age.” The same study found that 80.42 percent of the children were girls while 19.58 percent were boys. These staggering numbers underline the importance of Thorn’s work in targeting child pornography, especially when the physical and psychological trauma endured in early childhood affect the victims for the rest of their lives.
Child Sexual Abuse Deterrence Program
The majority of the sex trafficking victims end up in the situation because of living in poverty. As children of more impoverished and uneducated families, they often at higher risk of abduction or even being sold into slavery where they can end up in the estimated $13 billion pornography industry. In 2018, one in seven runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children likely became victims of sex trafficking, the majority of which came from low-income families. Therefore, issues of poverty ultimately need to be addressed in order to stamp out child sexual abuse entirely.
Poverty isn’t the only catalyst. Child pornography wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a market in which to sell it. So, to prevent the pattern from spreading even wider, Thorn communicates directly with people actively searching for material featuring child sexual abuse with the aim to make them think about and realize its consequences and hopefully to change their behavior by helping them understand their accountability for the detrimental situation these children are in. Thanks to Thorn’s child sexual abuse deterrence program, more than 140,000 individuals have sought help in addressing their role in supporting child pornography.
Progress So Far
With the help from Thorn’s anti-human trafficking software, law enforcement officers and investigators have already identified 5,791 child sex trafficking victims and rescued 103 children who were victims of sexual abuse that was recorded and distributed. Thorn continues working with more than 20 international NGOs and more than 40 tech partners, aiding more than 5,000 law enforcement officers in all 50 states and in more than 18 countries in the fight to eliminate sex trafficking and abuse.
Ending human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children might be one of the worst fights society faces today, but with the help of organizations like Thorn creating anti-human trafficking software not only to find and recover these children but also to hold accountable and attempt to rehabilitate those who support the industry, there is hope of seeing a reduction in these types of atrocities in the future.