There are over 100,000 escort ads posted online in the United States every day, and within these, are ads that represent and exploit children. Thorn (www.wearethorn.org, co-founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore), is a nonprofit tech task force, that helps law enforcement sift through massive amounts of data so they can focus their time on the most vulnerable victims. Thorn's web-based tool, leverages the AWS Cloud, machine learning algorithms and insight with officers in the field to connect disparate data to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of domestic sex trafficking investigations.
- More than 600 law enforcement agencies currently utilize the tool
- It has been used in more than 4,400 investigations
- 42 percent of law enforcement officials have reported decreased investigation times while using Spotlight
- More than 2,300 victims have been successfully identifies as a result of spotlight
Brooke Istook Director of Strategy oversees all of Thorn’s programs, products and operations to ensure effective and efficient execution of Thorn’s mission. Prior to joining Thorn, Brooke spent over 12 years working in IT consulting, operations, and program management, supporting Fortune 500 clients in Telecommunications and Entertainment. She has significant volunteer experience in the anti-trafficking movement and currently serves on the Board of Journey Out in Los Angeles. She holds B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Alabama and an M.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies from Fuller Seminary.
Officer.com: How has Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher helped in development?
BI: As the co-founders of Thorn, Ashton and Demi remain involved as members of our Board of Directors, have made significant financial contributions and have offered strategic guidance and support.
Officer.com: With 100,000+ escort ads posted every day, what type of software does THORN utilize to decipher children vs adults?
BI: In partnership with Digital Reasoning, Thorn built Spotlight, a human trafficking investigations tool. Spotlight is a web-based application that connects data from various publicly available data sources that comprise the online commercial sex marketplace. The tool helps prioritize leads by leveraging machine learning algorithms that were built based on insight from officers in the field. The tool also culls through massive amounts of data in order to provide deep investigative tools to help officers understand the historical and full geographic reach of a victim's trafficking situation. The objective of the tool is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of domestic minor sex trafficking investigations and increase the number of children who are identified and connected with help resources.
Officer.com: How does Project Vic work? It seems like it is an attempt to identify the children, how does THORN connect investigators to each other building cases?
BI: Project Vic is a collaborative effort between the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and law enforcement around the world to create a central repository of child sexual abuse image hashes, reduce the time it takes to analyze seized content collections and allow law enforcement to more rapidly focus on new content and possible victims. Project Vic uses a victim-centered approach and tools that allow participating law enforcement agencies to quickly eliminate around 75% of content and focus on the 25% that have not already been classified. More importantly the project has helped to save over 300 children to date.
Early on, Thorn saw the value of Project VIC as a tool for investigators to more quickly sift through massive amounts of child sexual abuse imagery uncovered by investigators in the field and more rapidly identify victims hidden amongst the imagery. Thorn came alongside the Project Vic team as one of the first funders , and continue to help them more quickly develop and roll-out tools to officers in over 40 countries.
Officer.com: After beginning in 2014 and with thousands of law enforcement users, how many cases have been brought to justice?
BI: We know that Spotlight has been used in over 4400 investigations and been used to identify over 2300 victims of human trafficking including over 900 children. Spotlight has also been used to identify more than 1000 traffickers.
Officer.com: We see social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, how has / does THORN work with these companies in their goals? Also, there are international work done with more "foreign" sites like Qzone, VKontakte, etc.?
Thorn partners with the tech industry here in the US including Facebook and Twitter to disseminate tools and best practices to help the tech industry ensure their platforms are as safe as possible for children. In addition, the Thorn Tech Task Force is comprised of more than 20 technology companies that lend their knowledge, time and resources to the work that we do. At this point, we are only working with companies operating in the United States, but as we grow, hope to include more international companies.