How it started
More than a decade ago, Thorn was founded to address the growing issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation. After extensive research and conversations with experts across disciplines, we discovered the need to revolutionize the fight against child sexual abuse with technology. With that, Thorn was established with the vision that every child has a right to simply be a kid.
How it’s going
Thorn has grown and evolved significantly over the years, but our mission remains as clear as ever: to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse. We address the problem from three focus areas: accelerate victim identification, equip platforms to stop the viral spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and empower the public with resources for youth and their caregivers to navigate digital safety conversations.
Today, we’re a team of more than 100 people, working collaboratively on a global scale to solve this problem. And we’ve made great strides in the first half of 2023.
Our proudest moments of impact
So far this year, Safer has hashed over 20.1 billion images and videos. These hashes are then matched against lists of known CSAM hashes, and any CSAM that is found can then be removed and reported. This helps to both reduce the viral spread of CSAM and reduce revictimization for survivors.
We also built a machine learning model to detect if a conversation contains language patterns associated with grooming. We worked with the Tech Coalition to test and deploy the technology to disrupt online grooming and prevent harm to children in digital spaces.
We conduct ground-breaking research and report on the findings and their implications for child safety. This year we published two reports: Responding to Online Threats: Minors’ Perspective on Disclosing, Reporting, and Blocking in 2021 and LGBTQ+ Youth Perspectives: How LGBTQ+ Youth are Navigating Exploration and Risks of Sexual Exploitation Online.
Our research into the perspectives of LGBTQ+ youth revealed that they are three times more likely to encounter risky interactions online. Watch our interview with Thorn’s Head of Research and Insights for a deeper discussion.
When researching how minors respond to online threats, we discovered that youth were twice as likely to use online support tools—such as blocking or reporting—than to seek offline support from a parent or caregiver.
We participate in legislative discussion among lawmakers, experts, and survivors. Thorn’s Victim Identification Program in Europe is led by Cathal Delaney, formerly of Europol. Part of that work is in advising on legislation aimed at preventing child sexual abuse– and why it matters that we all bring our expertise to the table in the fight to build a world where every child can be safe, curious and happy.
Thorn staff have been interviewed as subject matter experts on the risks and challenges that artificial intelligence poses in child sexual exploitation in publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Additionally, we co-authored a new report with our partners at Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) on this topic.
Our youth-centered prevention program, NoFiltr, released a new website with a resource hub on how young people can navigate common online scenarios. The Youth Innovation Council continues to advise not only Thorn, but our peers and online platforms about the latest digital safety and prevention methods.
What comes next
Thorn has made huge strides in using technology to defend children from sexual abuse. None of it would have been possible without the generosity of our donors. With your support, we can go even further to eliminate child sexual abuse material.