Digital Defenders of Children Unite in the Fight Against Online Child Exploitation

My job as the CEO of Thorn is to lead the development of new technologies to defend children from sexual abuse online. We know that while technology has not created child sexual abuse, it has democratized it, and technology must be a part of the response to this complex problem.

Let’s look at some stats1 that help paint the picture:

  • More than 100,000 escort ads are posted online every day in the US and some of them feature children
  • 63% of child sex trafficking survivors we have surveyed were advertised online at some point
  • 25 million images and videos of child sexual abuse are reviewed by The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) annually
  • 57,335 URLs were confirmed by the Internet Foundation to contain child sexual abuse imagery in 2016

Intel is a partner in developing technology to identify exploited children

Somewhere in the more than 100,000 escort ads posted every day are the children who are bought and sold for sex by the hour. The true warriors in this battle are the law enforcement officials who sift through massive amounts of images and data to focus their time on the most vulnerable victims. This is very difficult content to view and it’s difficult to make a call on which ad represents the most vulnerable. We’re working with Intel to help improve this process.

NCMEC has about 460,000 images of missing children in their database2, and, in 2016, they estimated that one in six1 children reported missing may be victims of sex trafficking. Our work aims to help find these children faster by matching the images of missing children with those found on escort pages. Intel is a key partner that has been instrumental in helping Thorn create the technology to identify the children in this type of content with a solution powered by deep learning and Intel AI tools.

The latest artificial intelligence capabilities are powering our tools

Using Intel® Xeon® processor-based systems, we are training a model using data analytics and deep learning to power an artificial intelligence system that can recognize and match images of children, regardless of age, hair color, or other variances, from the child sexual abuse content to the images of children in NCMEC’s database.

The goal is to eventually integrate this capability into Spotlight, our trafficking investigations tool that is used by more than 5,300 officers in the US and Canada. Spotlight provides intelligence and plots trends to get a clear picture of the scope of human trafficking in specific areas. This helps law enforcement effectively allocate resources and focus their investigation on the most vulnerable victims.  In 2016, Spotlight was used in 7,442 cases to identify 4,545 adults, 1,980 children, and 2,186 traffickers1.

The tech industry unites to solve one of the world’s biggest challenges

One of Thorn’s goals is to put the best and brightest minds in technology to work on behalf of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Intel has been an important partner in this fight with their help to accelerate our work around victim identification. They join more than 30 other companies that have given their time and talent to this mission.  To learn more about our work and how to partner with Thorn, visit