AI Joins the Battle to End Online Sex Trafficking
A new partnership is leveraging the power of AI to hunt down online sex traffickers.
The internet? We don’t need to tell you what a game-changer it’s been. It’s our infinite library/newsstand/theater, and social media has expanded our ability to connect with each other. Unfortunately, it’s also proven to be a dream come true for sex traffickers who’ve invented brand-new ways to capture and exploit prey. Thorn, a non-profit dedicated to fighting child sexual exploitation, is fighting back using the latest technology to assist law enforcement in putting a stop to it.
There are a range of ways in which the internet has become the center of sexual exploitation, with an estimated 325,000 U.S. children currently at risk:
Actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore founded Thorn, and explain its mission in this video from 2013:
As “Digital Defenders of Children,” Thorn has recently partnered with company Digital Reasoning to develop Spotlight, a new web-based technology built on AI. “Coming face to face with the sheer numbers of children being trafficked for sex and the number of disgusting pictures being circulated on millions of machines around the country made us sick,” writes Tim Estes, founder and CEO Digital Reasoning on the company’s site.
Spotlight leverages Synthesys®, Digital Reasoning’s cognitive computing platform. It finds patterns in oceans of internet data, and produces leads for law enforcement regarding suspected trafficking networks and individuals in order to shut them down and to assist and identify their victims. In the last 12 months, Spotlight has identified 6,325 victims, of whom 1,980 are children. It’s also pinpointed 2,186 traffickers, assisting authorities nationally in 7,442 cases.
Top 5 states in which Spotlight is helping (THORN)
Synthesys’ cognitive capabilities allows it to uncover well-hidden criminal activities. An estimated 100,000 escort ads are temporarily posted every day before being quickly taken down before they can be tracked and reposted at a later time. Victims ages and identities are falsified, and sometimes their faces are hidden in the ads. It’s a twisted mess for law enforcement. Spotlight uses methods such as language analysis and the collating of data from seemingly unrelated sources to see behind the subterfuge. It helps authorities follow the true history of a victim’s exploitation with the aim of locating and rescuing them.
According to one Homeland Security investigator, identified as “Amy” on the Digital Reasoning site, “I cannot even recall life before Spotlight. Every single phone number coming across my table that I suspect may be involved in gangs, drugs, or trafficking, I immediately plug into Spotlight.”
Florida cybercrime investigator (JOE RAEDLE)
A federal agent in Hawaii says on Thorn’s Spotlight page, “Spotlight is a force multiplier at every stage of the operation. We can use this tool to gather intelligence and plot trends prior to conducting an operation, during the operation we can allocate resources effectively and tighten our investigative vision to have the greatest immediate impact, and following this operation we can couple Spotlight with information gathered in interviews to develop a more complete picture of the scope of Human Trafficking in our area.”
We read all the time about developments in AI and the ways in which it may make lives better. Criminals can be shrewd — Spotlight helps law enforcement outsmart them, and it reminds us how powerful technology can be in the hands of the right people.
If you’d like to know more about Thorn and learn how you can help, visit their site.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.
Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco!
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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