Ashton Kutcher Delivers Powerful Speech on Human Trafficking & Sex Slavery to U.S. Congress (VIDEO)

Ashton Kutcher Delivers Powerful Speech on Human Trafficking & Sex Slavery to U.S. Congress (VIDEO)

Ashton Kutcher Delivers Powerful Speech on Human Trafficking & Sex Slavery to U.S. Congress (VIDEO)

Let’s get one thing straight: Ashton Kutcher isn’t “just an actor.” As Chairman and Co-Founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an international organization that fights against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children, his work is changing the fates of thousands upon thousands of human trafficking victims.

So, why would Ashton go before U.S. Congress to discuss human trafficking? For two main reasons: to educate, and to call to action. The government has the power to be part of the solution, to change the way we treat victims and perpetrators of human trafficking and sex slavery, and Congress has the power to help eradicate human trafficking by financing projects like Ashton’s, implementing stricter regulations, and making victim and perpetrator mental health treatment a priority.

The Sad Truth About Human Trafficking

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons states that “exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide and 4.5 million people trapped in forced sex trafficking around the globe. At least 100,000 children are prostituted annually in the U.S., adding to the $9.8 billion U.S. sex trafficking industry. This is an extremely lucrative business, as pimps typically make between $150K and $200K per child annually and they usually exploit 4-6 girls, on average.

The number of people trafficked against their will and the level of interest amongst buyers grows every single year at an alarming rate. In 2013 alone, NCMEC reviewed 22 million images and videos of suspected child sexual abuse imagery.

Many children in sex trafficking rings aren’t even conscious of what’s going on around them. They’re so conditioned by their handlers that “they think they’re just playing,” as Kutcher puts it. If you know anything about the government program MK Ultra, it’s easy to imagine how these children can be manipulated and brainwashed into thinking that pedophilia is okay.

How Thorn Is Using Technology to Fight It

Thorn has designed different types of software to help fight human trafficking, one of which is Spotlight, a web-based tool that can be used by law enforcement to prioritize their workload, and which gets smarter and more efficient the more it’s used. Spotlight is currently being used by 4,000 officers in the U.S. and allows law enforcers to reduce investigation time by 60%.

There’s been a lot of controversy recently over the use of AI, and more sophisticated technologies being used in the workplace, as some have the potential to threaten jobs. However, this technology could mean the difference between saving a little girl from living her life in child sex ring and not finding her at all. One of the greatest obstacles law enforcers face with these cases is time; children can be raped and forced into these underground rings in a matter of hours, yet many of these investigations take months or even years.

In Ashton’s speech to Congress, he points out that since technology is currently being used to enable slavery, why shouldn’t we use it to help end it as well? The dark net is a dangerous hub that allows pedophiles from all over the globe to engage in these types of activities. But, it wasn’t always this terrible place; it can and still is used for whistleblowers to communicate, and acts as a safe community for sensitive subjects to be discussed. As Ashton points out, technology is powerless without human will, and we have an opportunity here to use this technology to improve society immensely, as long as we will it.

Another tool that his company developed is Solace, which is being used in beta by more than 40 agencies worldwide now to help law enforcers free sex trafficking victims, and just like Spotlight, it’s getting better and better. Solace is anticipated to be able to cut down investigation time from three years to only three weeks. 

Although the technology clearly focuses on finding the victims, a huge issue that Ashton sheds light upon is the pipelines that allow these industries to thrive. Why are so many people on this planet sexually attracted to children and how did this problem become a global epidemic?

Well, one of these pipelines is actually through the foster care system. In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that one in six endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims.

Ashton states, “I was astonished to find out that 70% of the inmates in the prisons across this country have touched the foster care system and 80% of the people on death row were at some point in time exposed to the foster care system… Foster care children are 4 times more likely to be exposed to sexual abuse. That’s a breeding ground for trafficking, I promise you that.”

Another pipeline he mentions is the lack of mental health support offered to both victims and perpetrators. We cannot just hand people prescriptions and assume that this will put an end to their nightmares. Anyone who is subject to this kind of abuse will likely require long-term counselling and therapy, and so will their perpetrators.

This isn’t just an issue of search and rescue. Human trafficking can only be stopped if we work toward fixing the entire system. This means understanding why this happens in the first place so we can prevent it from occurring, as well as providing better support to victims and perpetrators after the fact.

You can watch the full video of Ashton Kutcher presenting to the U.S. Congress below:



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