Kutcher is chairman of Thorn, which fights child trafficking.
In addition to being an outspoken advocate of refugees, Ashton Kutcher spends a good deal of his time fighting to end sex trafficking of children online. And this week he informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the progress his organization has made in combating modern slavery.
“I’m here today to defend the right to pursue happiness,” Kutcher shared at the beginning of his testimony. “It’s a simple notion, the right to pursue happiness. It’s bestowed upon all of us by our Constitution… and I believe that it is incumbent upon us as citizens of this nation, as Americans, to bestow that right upon others upon each other and on the rest of the world.” He added: “But the right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away. It’s raped. It’s abused. It’s taken by force, fraud or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.”
The actor went on to explain the incredibly horrific things he’s witnessed while working with law enforcement to end sex trafficking.”As part of my anti-trafficking work, I’ve met victims in Russia, I’ve met victims in India, I’ve met victims that have been trafficked from Mexico, victims from New York and New Jersey and all across our country. I’ve been on FBI raids where I’ve seen things that no person should ever see,” he said while holding back tears. Kutcher is a father of two children under the age of 3. “I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia. And this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play.”
Kutcher is a co-founder and chairman of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, which makes software that fights the online components of human trafficking. Thorn built Spotlight, a software program that has had dramatic results when it comes to fighting modern day slavery. “In six months, with 25% of our users reporting, we’ve identified over 6,000 trafficking victims, 2,000 of which are minors,” Kutcher explained of Spotlight’s progress. “This tool has enhanced 4,000 law enforcement officials in 900 agencies. And we’re reducing the investigation time by 60%.”
Thorn also built Solis, a software program that helps law enforcement with investigations involving dark web content. It reduces police case times from three years to just three weeks. “The technology we’re building is efficient, nimble [and] enduring, and it only gets smarter with time,” he reported. “It’s taking the internet, which is largely anonymous, and making it far less anonymous.” And while Kutcher’s work is making tremendous efforts to end sex trafficking, he reminded the politicians that there’s still plenty to be done. He asked for additional funding for new technology, continued partnership from elected officials, and more effort to be made in reducing potential victims from the foster care system. Kutcher explained how foster kids are targets for traffickers and how crucial mental health programs are for survivors of human trafficking.
“When people are left out, when they’re neglected, when they’re not supported, and when they’re not given the love they need to grow, it becomes an incubator for trafficking,” Kutcher explained. “And this refugee crisis, if we want to be serious about ending slavery, we cannot ignore them, we cannot ignore our support for this issue in that space, because otherwise, we’re going to have to deal with it for years to come.”
Watch his full speech below.