The following guest post was written by Ernie Allen, a recent addition to Thorn’s Board of Directors. His leadership, dedication, inspiration and ongoing work to protect children across the globe continue to push us forward.
Throughout my career I have worked closely with technology leaders. For more than three decades I have seen the power of technology firsthand and how it has changed every aspect of our lives, including the way we search for missing children, identify those who prey upon children, and keep children safe. Yet, there is a dark side. Technology also facilitates the exploitation of children. We have to change that. Read More
The FBI’s Operation Cross Country is a cross agency—and now cross border—operation that focuses on recovering underage victims of sex trafficking and raising public awareness. This year’s Operation Cross Country aided in the recovery of 82 juveniles (the youngest U.S. victim was 13 years old) and the arrest of 239 pimps. FBI Director Comey said, “Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population.” Read More
Our team joined Cloudera Cares to host a hackathon at the recent Grace Hopper Open Source Day. Women attending the conference were invited to take part in a day long hackathon to benefit a social impact project. The event served a number of purposes — to draw attention to the problem of child sexual exploitation, look for ways to stop it, encourage women starting out in their tech careers to contribute and offer those same women the opportunity to be mentored by other experienced engineers and data scientists. Read More
The genesis of Spotlight started after we conducted a sex trafficking Survivor Survey in 2012, seeking to learn directly from victims how technology was used throughout their trafficking situation. We found that sixty-three percent of underage sex trafficking victims reported they had been bought or sold online. Armed with this data, we worked with our technology partners and law enforcement to understand how these existing digital footprints could assist law enforcement in faster victim identification. Read More
Chase Ricketts is our newest software engineer in the Thorn Innovation Lab.
From the first time I saw Thorn’s website I knew that their organization was atypical. Their pointed mission and data-driven projects demonstrated their effectiveness as digital defenders of children. Throughout the interview process, it was clear to me that this mission was backed by individuals of passion and genuineness. As a software engineer with a compassion for victims of sexual abuse, Thorn was a godsend. I considered staying blissfully ignorant of the problem, but this was too great of an opportunity to pass up — I was hooked. Read More
Last month, the documentary Audrie & Daisy arrived on Netflix. It tells the story of the sexual assault of two teenage girls, Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman. While each girl has a unique story, they share a common experience in the stigma, shame, and harassment they receive in response to their assault and the role technology plays in each of their stories. Read More
As soon as I started at Thorn, I was thrilled to be at a hub where technology and social good intersect. From my first day, I was immersed in the world of Thorn’s programmatic work and multi-layered partnerships. I was encouraged to ask questions (I had about a thousand) and to keep asking them, and even to give feedback beyond my immediate scope of work. It was apparent that Thorn’s approach was different than that of the average non-profit. At Thorn, innovation and new ideas are encouraged and, in fact, drive our work fighting child sexual exploitation. I am excited to be part of a team that is both dynamic and forward-thinking — constantly engaging in conversations and forging new relationships in order to create the best and most effective tools on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children. Read More
Mike Ottum is our newest software engineer in the Thorn Innovation Lab.
One of the first things that struck me when I began speaking with the engineering team at Thorn was the importance and clarity of their mission: using technology to fight child sexual exploitation. I’d never worked on anything with that kind of gravity before (my background is in building systems management software), and I felt unsure. But as I learned more about the technical problems that Thorn was tackling, I realized that software is software and the same basic methodologies that deliver cat memes on-time and on-budget can be applied to help identify children who need to be rescued. Read More
Oftentimes when a child is in trouble, one of the only clues we have is his or her face. We can have a picture of a missing child and be looking for them, or we can have a picture of an abused child that was distributed online and want to find them quickly. One of the main hurdles is how we connect the dots between these images of exploited children with other photos on the open web that may help us identify them and remove them from harm. Read More