#sextrafficking | Twin Cities tech leaders work to prevent child sex trafficking

Thorn is a non-profit, which developed a program called Spotlight, to help law enforcement identify possible victims. It helps officers sort through escort ads.

It’s used by more than 75 agencies and 200 officers in Minnesota, according to Potts.

“Escort ads are legal but within those advertisements, people are also selling illegal services, some of them are adult trafficking victims, some are child trafficking victims,” she said. 

The non-profit was founded in 2012 by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. 

Potts told 5 EYEWITNESS NEW that as the organization worked with survivors, they discovered many children are forced to write their own ads.

“By using advanced technology we’re able to identify and elevate what is likely to be written by a child,” she said.

On Saturday, data scientists and engineers from the Twin Cities collaborated to test problems Spotlight has encountered and generate solutions. 

“These successes and these failures will go into our decision making about how our product can move forward quickly,” said Potts.

The “hackathon” was held at the Carlson Towers. It was organized by CWT, which is a travel management company owned by the Carlson family and the Carlson Family Foundation. 

They brought in about 50 technologists from half a dozen companies within the Twin Cities.

“From Target, Optimum, a bunch of different companies,” said John Pelant, chief information officer of CWT. “Put their brains together to drive this forward.”

It’s the first time an event like this has been held by Thorn in Minnesota, or this region of the United States. Kutcher attended the event.

“I think it shines a spotlight on the talent we have here for technologists,” said Pelant.

He also hopes this encourages people to talk about the issue of child sex trafficking. Some of the technologists may also decide to continue working with Thorn.

“I think what will happen is you kind of light a fire with these technologists, then they’ll be able to stay connected with Thorn, stay connected with the issue,” he said.

For Potts, “The more that we are all comfortable to talk about the issue, the more we’re all going to be able to bring our unique solution to it.”

To learn more about Thorn, click here.


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