Industry Focus

Serious About All Security

Let’s talk candidly about security for a moment, okay? I read a recent news story I wanted to share and make aware of the ramifications. After nearly disappearing in the 1990s, the spread of child sexual abuse material exploded with the rise of the internet, while child sex trafficking increased with exposure to a greater market online. Today, the problem is complex and still growing.

Well-known actor and co-founder of Thorn, Ashton Kutcher, has become a defender of children by implementing technology. He addressed that many see technology as the cause of such horrors, but that it is also a tool in preventing them. “Technology can be used to enable slavery, but it can also be used to disable slavery,” Kutcher says a video.

So, who is Thorn? It is Kutcher’s foundation to help improve the lives of children; to stop the growth and threat of exploitation of children, and in the process using the very technology that may enslave children, to set them free.

“We refuse to live in a world where the technology exists to help kids but simply isn’t being used,” Thorn states on their website, WeAreThorn.org. “We build power products, lead new programs, and develop awareness campaigns to attack the issue from all sides. We want tech companies, police and NGOs to leverage everything we do.”

Spotlight, Thorn’s first product, is designed based on insights from a survivor survey the organization conducted. It accelerates victim identification and helps agencies make the best use of the critical time they have to find child sex trafficking victims.

In 2016, Spotlight helped law enforcement identify an average of five children per day. It also helped reduce critical search time by 60 percent and found a total of 1,980 victimized children.

Here is where you and I can help: Thorn has a sound practices guide. Many small and mid-size companies do not have the resources or knowledge to implement child safety procedures and tools, making their platforms vulnerable to abusive content and behavior. Thorn offers guidance and concrete steps to for companies of all sizes to help protect children on their platforms.

Thorn also knows about online deterrence. With the sheer volume of illicit child abuse material online, law enforcement isn’t equipped to find and identify all the people searching for this content. The result is that people search and share with a seemingly low risk of getting caught. Thorn works to intercept this behavior and change it—reducing the demand for abuse content overall.

Finally, there is industry hash sharing. Most image sharing platforms independently screen for child sexual abuse images, but don’t share intelligence, resulting in the slow and inefficient removal of abusive content. The Thorn hash-sharing program was developed to help companies share intelligence quickly and speed the identification and removal of bad content.

I’ve been candid and straight-forward. We can help stop this vile and inhumane practice. We’re involved in an industry that has open eyes and open ears.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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