February 15, 2017

Corker: U.S. at Historic Turning Point in Global Fight to End Modern Slavery

Thorn Co-Founder Ashton Kutcher Testifies at Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Ahead of END IT Movement’s Annual Shine a Light on Slavery Day

WASHINGTON – Ahead of the END IT Movement’s fifth annual “Shine a Light on Slavery” day next week, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, convened a hearing on Wednesday to assess progress by the U.S. to end modern slavery and human trafficking internationally, including recent enactment of authorizing legislation for the End Modern Slavery Initiative (EMSI). The hearing featured testimony from actor Ashton Kutcher, co-founder of Thorn, and Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First.

“We are at a historic turning point in the global fight to end modern slavery thanks to the incredible efforts of so many committed individuals, faith-based groups, and aid organizations throughout the U.S. and around the world,” said Corker. “In marking END IT Day, we highlight the horrific nature of modern slavery. We also highlight progress being made as the U.S. prepares to embark on an unprecedented global effort to end this scourge on humanity. This is important as we implement the authorization of the End Modern Slavery Initiative to measurably and sustainably ramp up all our efforts worldwide.”

Kutcher credited the committee’s leadership on the EMSI and described how Thorn’s web-based technology helps investigators rescue victims of sexual exploitation and target traffickers who navigate anonymously on the “dark web.” According to his testimony, the technology has reduced investigative times by as much as 60 percent while helping to identify over 6,000 trafficking victims in the U.S., 2,000 of whom were minors, and more than 2,200 traffickers within the last year.

"I want to express my particular gratitude to Chairman Corker for his vision, courage and tenacity, Senator Cardin, and the members of this committee, for the work you did in a bipartisan way that made the End Modern Slavery Initiative a reality. It will change the world," said Kutcher. “Using technology to fight the sexual exploitation of children is what we aim to do at Thorn, a nonprofit organization I co-founded several years ago. We made a commitment to innovate, to develop new technology tools to better respond to and address these problems, and then to put those tools in the hands of those best positioned to use them. I refuse to live in a world where any person must remain in a heinous abuse situation simply because existing technology hasn’t been utilized to find them."

Kutcher also explained how the EMSI model of public-private partnerships is integral to making real progress in the global fight to end slavery.

“Through this initiative, the U.S. government can actively invite the best and brightest in the technology field to join us in this fight and open a dialogue towards identifying and implementing technical solutions around the world. And, by demonstrating your financial commitment, this committee is showing the world that the United States is serious about ending slavery in our lifetime,” added Kutcher.

Massimino described in her testimony how the failure to address the existence of modern slavery around the world threatens core interests of the United States.

“Increasingly, organized crime rings and international terror organizations traffic in human beings to accumulate wealth and power. Congress and the new administration must continue their commitment to addressing the problem of slavery, both for its moral and economic implications, and also because of the national security risks associated with corruption, terrorism, and organized crime,” said Massimino.

Click here for complete testimony and video coverage of the hearing.

Today, in 2017, more than 27 million people are enslaved around the world. That’s more than at any time in history. Two years ago, with input from leading stakeholders and industry experts, Senator Corker proposed a bold, bipartisan initiative to end modern slavery worldwide. Not unlike the role PEPFAR has played in fighting AIDS worldwide, the End Modern Slavery Initiative is designed to leverage limited foreign aid dollars and galvanize tremendous support and investment from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the private sector to focus resources responsibly where the crime is most prevalent. In December, President Obama signed legislation into law that included authorizing language for the initiative.

Founded in 2010, Thorn drives technology innovation to combat child sexual exploitation. By partnering with leading technology companies, law enforcement, and NGOs, Thorn builds technology tools that finds child abuse victims fast, makes online environments safer, and deters criminal behavior. Learn more at http://www.wearethorn.org/.

END IT is an awareness campaign that launched in 2013. The goal is to “Shine a Light on Slavery” by letting the world know that slavery still exists. END IT believes awareness is doing the work, but that awareness is only the beginning. Awareness must lead to action. “Shine a Light on Slavery” day is Thursday, February 23, and on this day, END IT encourages people to draw a red X on their hand, take a selfie and post it on social media using #enditmovement. This simple action opens the door to conversations and allows us to tell more people that slavery still exists and that we want to end it.