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A Q&A with Thorn – A Tech Innovation Fighting Child Sexual Exploitation

There are over 100,000 escort ads posted online in the United States every day, and within these, are ads that represent and exploit children. Thorn (, co-founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore), is a nonprofit tech task force, that helps law enforcement sift through massive amounts of data so they can focus their time on the most vulnerable victims. Thorn’s web-based tool, leverages the AWS Cloud, machine learning algorithms and insight with officers in the field to connect disparate data to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of domestic sex trafficking investigations.

  • More than 600 law enforcement agencies currently utilize the tool
  • It has been used in more than 4,400 investigations
  • 42 percent of law enforcement officials have reported decreased investigation times while using Spotlight
  • More than 2,300 victims have been successfully identifies as a result of spotlight

Brooke Istook Director of Strategy oversees all of Thorn’s programs, products and operations to ensure effective and efficient execution of Thorn’s mission. Prior to joining Thorn, Brooke spent over 12 years working in IT consulting, operations, and program management, supporting Fortune 500 clients in Telecommunications and Entertainment. She has significant volunteer experience in the anti-trafficking movement and currently serves on the Board of Journey Out in Los Angeles. She holds B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Alabama and an M.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies from Fuller Seminary. How has Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher helped in development?

BI: As the co-founders of Thorn, Ashton and Demi remain involved as members of our Board of Directors, have made significant financial contributions and have offered strategic guidance and support. With 100,000+ escort ads posted every day, what type of software does THORN utilize to decipher children vs. adults?

BI: In partnership with Digital Reasoning, Thorn built Spotlight, a human trafficking investigations tool.  Spotlight is a web-based application that connects data from various publicly available data sources that comprise the online commercial sex marketplace. The tool helps prioritize leads by leveraging machine learning algorithms that were built based on insight from officers in the field. The tool also culls through massive amounts of data in order to provide deep investigative tools to help officers understand the historical and full geographic reach of a victim’s trafficking situation.  The objective of the tool is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of domestic minor sex trafficking investigations and increase the number of children who are identified and connected with help resources.

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