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Thorn is one of eight organizations to share over $280 million in funding through The Audacious Project


June 12, 2019
By Staff
Thorn CEO Julie Cordua.

Thorn, a non-profit organization co-founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and dedicated to building technology to defend children from sexual abuse, has announced the launch of a bold new initiative to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the internet.

Thorn is one of eight organizations to share in over $280 million of funding through The Audacious Project, housed at TED. Each year, The Audacious Project identifies and invests in global changemakers with the biggest, boldest, and most actionable ideas with the potential to affect millions of lives. The Audacious Project brings together some of the most respected organizations and individuals in philanthropy — the Skoll Foundation, Virgin Unite, Dalio Foundation and more.

“The internet has created an opportunity for mass distribution of images and videos of child sexual abuse, and the majority are very young children, often under 12,” said Ashton Kutcher, co-founder of Thorn. “This extraordinary amount of funding towards the elimination of child sexual abuse material from the internet illustrates that investors and donors recognize this is a rapidly growing and dangerous issue that must be addressed.”

“The volume of child sexual abuse material on the Internet and the size of the population participating – has skyrocketed. Since 2004, there has been a 10,000 per cent increase in sexual abuse files reported by technology companies,” said Thorn CEO Julie Cordua. “Unfortunately, child abuse content likely exists on the majority of platforms that accept user-generated content. To date there have been limited solutions offered to small and mid-sized companies to address this specific problem, making their platforms vulnerable to abusive content and behavior. Our product Safer provides a solution to help companies ensure their platforms are not enabling the viral spread of this abuse content.”

The sexual abuse of children is a human problem, but the explosion in the online distribution of child sexual abuse imagery is a technology problem that demands a technology-led response.

Over the last seven years Thorn has worked at the intersection of technology and child sexual abuse to build the tools necessary to fight this abuse in the digital age. As part of this initiative to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the internet, Thorn will:

  • Provide frontline law enforcement around the world with the technology and data they need to find victims faster, stop perpetrators, and reduce the amount of abuse material produced.
  • Continue to build and scale the software needed to help companies locate and remove child sexual abuse content from their platforms. Safer offers a low-cost, scalable tool required for swift review, removal, and reporting of child sexual abuse material, and aims to end its viral distribution.
  • Drive data collaboration so that information is shared as widely and collaboratively as possible in the best interest of the child. Currently, much of the most important data sits in independent silos at government agencies around the world or within private companies.
  • Build out product teams and create the only research and development team that will be 100% dedicated to new technologies to combat online child sexual abuse. Thorn will aim to stay ahead of perpetrators and focus on advanced technologies that either pose a threat in this space or can be leveraged to stop this abuse. Initial research areas include live-streaming, blockchain, and cryptocurrency, which are already emerging in this field.
  • Support and invest in critical global partnerships with front-line responders (law enforcement, industry, NGOs).
  • Thorn’s success to date is due in part to the support of critical long-term supporters including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google.org, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Thorn works closely with child protection organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), WePROTECT Global Alliance, Canadian Center for Child Protection, INHOPE, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and others who have worked tirelessly against child sexual abuse for decades.

“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is incredibly proud of our long-standing partnership with Thorn,” said Michelle DeLaune from the NCMEC. “Our mutual goal is that survivors can take solace in knowing that imagery of their child sexual abuse has been eradicated from the internet.”

Watch the TED video here.