Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Digital Defenders from Thorn, Starring Ashton Kutcher

No, this is not a new movie Mr. Kutcher is starring in, but it may be the biggest role I have seen him in. Thorn was cofounded by Ashton Kutcher in 2009, an organization whose goal is to drive tech innovation to fight child sexual Exploitation; they are the Digital Defenders of Children.   Ashton gave a passionate testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 15, 2017, which can be viewed here.

Some sobering facts were raised by Mr. Kutcher.  He provided an example of how our foster care system plays a role in our sex trafficking problem.  He stated that there are currently approximately 500,000 children in our foster care system.  Their future is bleak; 70% of the prison population are a product of the foster care system; 50% will not get a high school diploma; and children in the foster care system are 4 times as likely to be sexually abused.  Mr. Kutcher talked about how this process is an incubator, and breeding ground for becoming involved in sex trafficking.  He also noted that this same incubator process occurs on an international basis through the refugee crisis that is present in countries all around the globe. 

His overall talk was very emotional and powerful.  It highlighted action that is currently underway as well as additional steps that need to be taken on several levels.  Their company, Thorn ( is involved in actively developing software that helps victims reach out for help ( by text.  They have also develop tools such as Spotlight that enable law enforcement to investigate trafficking more quickly and successfully.  I have encouraged our law enforcement personnel to take full advantage of these tools as part of their arsenal to combat this evil in our midst.

This also takes a change of perspective on our part, to look at how we should live and be willing to be part of the solution.  As Ashton Kutcher addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and spoke about international refugee problems, he was addressing our moral responsibility to not turn a blind eye to the millions who have been displaced from their homes through conflicts and atrocities. He was speaking to our moral responsibility as a nation and as individuals.  That is an easy topic, nor easy to understand how to work through our political system.

 I have been a fan of Ashton Kutcher since he was in Cheaper by the Dozen.   In fact, I think his role in that film has always been my favorite (probably the family size).  I became a real fan, though, when I saw a speech he gave at the Teen Choice Awards in 2013, where he shared lessons he has learned in life.  He spoke about the need for hard work, the need to be smart, thoughtful, and generous, and the need to aggressively take advantage of the opportunities that life provides.  I posted a blog about that speech several years ago.

Today I am even more inspired by Ashton.  He has taken advantage of the opportunities he has been provided through his career success to have an impact on our world.  His testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee demonstrated a level of respect for those involved in that meeting I find refreshing as well.  There needs to be more communication on Capitol Hill showing that level of respect for others.  I encourage you to take the time to watch his testimony and to peruse the work being done by Thorn on their website.  Both the website and the testimony he gave are linked above.  I encourage you all to be involved in developing a solution to some portion of the problems raised by Mr. Kutcher.