This weekend, nearly 80 engineers, activists and data scientists joined Thorn and Formation 8 at Twilio’s headquarters for the first Thorn Hackathon to fight child sexual exploitation. Over two days, twenty teams tackled a variety of challenges, ranging from helping Thorn obtain better insights from our data, to creating programs to deter abusive behavior and improve victim identification.
Our co-founder, Ashton Kutcher, joined Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir and founder of Formation 8, to kick off the weekend and to inspire participants to put their talent to work for those affected by abuse and trafficking. Ashton’s stated goal for the weekend was for participants to take the issue of human trafficking with them in their hearts and in their minds and to let their work continue beyond the weekend’s hackathon.
Long Hours, Long Term Impact
Several of the projects developed over the Hackathon’s 48 hours have long-term potential for Thorn and our partners. The three that rose to the top included a data visualization approach to better understand the behavior patterns of those downloading child abuse material; an automated way to learn about new abuse language used online; and a new way to research the role of virtual currency in the trade of child abuse material. While these were the three that took home the prizes, there were many more projects that have real potential in the fight against child sex trafficking and exploitation.
To help ensure that the innovation moves forward, Ashton Kutcher announced his commitment to fund three technology/data science fellowships with Thorn. This expansion of the Thorn team will help move technology projects forward more quickly and allow us to leverage the interest and passion that many of participants expressed throughout the weekend.
Formation 8 and Twilio: Thorn’s Partners in the Fight
A big thanks to Formation 8 for sponsoring Thorn’s first Hackathon, and to Twilio for generously donating its space and time for the weekend. Thank you also to our judges Megan Smith and Ilya Grigorik of Google, Del Harvey of Twitter, Ellen Levy of Silicon Valley Connect and Ashton and Joe. And, we’re so grateful to all of the participants who shared their expertise and talent. Participant Jay Chulani tweeted:
— Jay Chulani (@jchulani) August 24, 2014
We’re glad to hear it.