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
As Thorn’s Program Manager, I lead research initiatives that deepen our understanding of child sexual exploitation and help inform our partners across the tech industry, law enforcement and NGOs. Last summer, we launched a new research project to better understand sextortion. We heard from our partners about this growing threat to online child safety and the severe consequences. We wanted to arm them with more knowledge to combat this abuse, so we partnered with the Crimes Against Children Research Center to get our partners the information they needed directly from survivors. Read More
Philip Hölzenspies is a Software Engineer at Facebook. He also works to maintain the platform’s PhotoDNA infrastructure, which helps accelerate the identification, removal and reporting of child abuse imagery.
In the (online) Child Safety space, tech companies get to forget about being companies for a bit and focus on what really matters. People who work in this space in tech companies know this, sort of. It is invigorating, though, to experience it so acutely during a cross-company Child Safety Hackathon. This type of event provides a rare networking opportunity to meet people and share insights with those working in the same space. While conferences on child safety cover a much wider range of highly critical areas — law enforcement, signals for social workers, post-traumatic pastoral care, etc. — they’re far removed from the day-to-day job of a software engineer. A hackathon like this provides the opportunity to share war stories, personal drivers and innovative solutions that are tied to this work. Read More
Greg Clark is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and participated in the recent Child Safety Hackathon at Facebook.
As someone who has spent his entire career thus far working in technology, I’ve always looked for opportunities to use my skills and experience to make a difference, beyond simply producing new innovative software and services.
I recently had the privilege of traveling to the Bay Area to attend a Child Safety Hackathon, put on by Facebook, featuring challenges from Thorn and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The goal was to raise the problem of child sex trafficking to a diverse group of engineers to see what progress could be made over two days. The result was truly amazing! Read More
Last week, we joined Facebook as they hosted the first cross-industry Child Safety Hackathon. The event brought together leaders across the tech industry to hack on creating cutting edge solutions that will help find victims faster, deter predatory behavior and make platforms safer. The event further highlights the power of partnerships among leading technology companies. Read More
Courtney Gregoire works as a senior attorney in Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, where she fights technology-facilitated crime against vulnerable populations including children and the elderly. Her blog post is part of Thorn’s hashing series, which highlights the benefits of hashing technology for industry, law enforcement, nonprofits, and service providers as they work to detect and remove child sexual abuse material online.
Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit is dedicated to helping fight the online exploitation of children. One persistent, horrendous crime is the distribution of child sex abuse imagery on the Internet. The children victimized in this material are first harmed when their abuse is perpetrated and recorded. They are further victimized each time that record is distributed. Last year, thanks to PhotoDNA, the technology industry was able to disrupt the distribution of over 4 million images, a 4-fold increase over 2014.
John Shehan is the Vice President of the Exploited Child Division at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He also serves as Vice President to INHOPE, a network of international hotlines combatting child sexual abuse online, and as an advisory board member to the College of Humanities & Behavioral Sciences at his alma mater, Radford University. His blog post is part of Thorn’s hashing series, which highlights the benefits of hashing technology for industry, law enforcement, nonprofits, and service providers as they work to detect and remove child sexual abuse material online.
Last month, Thorn Digital Defender Del Harvey wrote about Twitter’s use of PhotoDNA, a technology developed by Microsoft that computes hash values of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The tool applies a unique fingerprint to identify an individual photo to detect suspected material online and then supports law enforcement to report and investigate it.
The basics of hashing technology
This month, we want to highlight the benefits of hashing technology for industry, law enforcement, nonprofits, and service providers as they work to detect and remove child sexual abuse material online. But let’s start with what hashing is and why it is a useful technology for Thorn and our partners.