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Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children

Project: Spotlight
Partner: Thorn, Digital Defenders of Children

“63% of child sex trafficking survivors were advertised online at some point during their trafficking situation.” Thorn

Exploitation of children online for sex has continued to grow. The internet has made purchasing a child for sex nearly as easy as buying a pizza. Online platforms, such as, have become online marketplaces for buying minor sex trafficking victims.

The volume of minor victims being sold online for sex demanded a change

The McCain Institute has supported and helped to advance the incredible work of Thorn, Digital Defenders of Children. Thorn has worked tirelessly to improve three areas of child safety, finding abused children faster, deterring predators, and creating hostile online environments. To find children faster, they have created two online tools, Spotlight and Solis, for law enforcement agencies across the world, for free. These tools are able to work through the deepest crevasses of the web to identify victims of trafficking more effectively and efficiently. The Spotlight tool was piloted in Phoenix for beta testing in 2015.

Measurable impact

The Spotlight tool is now used by over 4,000 police officers across the country and has helped in identifying over 6,000 victims of human trafficking.

We have elevated the conversation surrounding human trafficking and technology through our Human Trafficking Conversation Series. This series targets specific industries and seeks to educate the masses on how trafficking is intertwined in their day to day business. These conversations (see Part I and Part II) are followed up with proactive, action-based solutions the attendees can enact after the event. The focus of this conversation was how technology and trafficking can both benefit the fight against trafficking, but also create a more complex maze for traffickers to hide behind.

Human Trafficking Advisory Council Member Ashton Kutcher, the co-founder of Thorn, spoke out in a hearing on Capitol Hill in Feb. 2017 on the reality of human trafficking in the United States and beyond. This call to action was a powerful moment in the fight against trafficking and the McCain Institute has been happy to help support the action based items that followed this event.

Spotlight seminar

Publish Date
March 9, 2021