WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former “Punk’d” host Ashton Kutcher was playing no prank on February 15, when he emotionally testified to the Senate about modern slavery and human trafficking. Kutcher, chairman and co-founder of THORN, passionately testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to bring modern slavery and human trafficking to the attention of the American public.
“I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia. And this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play,” Kutcher testified before the Senate.
Trafficking comes in many forms such as forcing victims into prostitution, slavery or servitude and compelling victims to commit sexual acts for pornography. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry, bringing in an estimated profit of $32 billion each year. Some estimates say that approximately 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation and 19 percent involves labor exploitation. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
Kutcher explained that THORN had created technology to help prevent human trafficking and modern slavery. THORN: Digital Defenders of Children, the organization created by Kutcher and then-wife Demi Moore, builds software to fight human trafficking. Kutcher emphasized how technology can disable modern slavery and human trafficking.
THORN has been working with law enforcement agencies worldwide to help end trafficking and exploitation. Through technological advancements from THORN, such as the Thorn Spotlight, 4,000 law enforcement officials across 900 agencies prioritize their caseloads. “It gets smart, better over time and more efficient as people use it,” Kutcher explained.
Ever since agencies started using the software, about 6,000 trafficking victims have been found, with 2,000 of them being minors.
Kutcher testified and explained how his anti-trafficking work has deeply affected him, both as an advocate and as a parent, shown with his voice cracking throughout his testimony. He pleaded for additional funding for the technology, fostering public-private sector relationship, differentiating solutions for sex trafficking and labor trafficking with enforcement and legislation.
Senator Marco Rubio asked Kutcher what can be done about sites that provide an internet forum for sexual transactions; when one goes down, another comes up. Kutcher explained that he’s been combating this issue for six years. Kutcher explained that it’s just a game of whack-a-mole and that we have to develop better tools in order to prevent other websites from developing.
Ashton Kutcher’s passion to end modern slavery is incredible, and THORN is a great technological advancement to help with his cause. But, there is always more that can be done to help those who had their rights stolen from them.
– Mary Waller