Yesterday, Thorn received MDC Partners’ 2014 Humanitarian Award at the Wired Biz Conference in New York City. Sharing the stage alongside trailblazers such as David Karp (Founder of Tumblr), and successful investors like Chris Dixon (Partner at Andreessen Horowitz), it was a great opportunity to share more about our efforts to combat child sexual exploitation with an audience who appreciates innovation — one of the core principles of Thorn’s work.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Rethink” and the day consisted of back-to-back presentations on a wide range of subjects, many of which demonstrated how technology can dramatically change the world around us. In relation to Thorn’s work, it was fascinating to hear social media campaign expert, Sarah Wood (Co-Founder and COO of Unruly), talk about content optimization, the realities of why people share content and what they’re most likely to share. At Thorn, other than sharing general information about our organization’s work, we are focused on getting perpetrators to stop sharing content, specifically child abuse imagery.
Hearing from a number of disruptive innovators set the stage perfectly for Thorn. With limited time, I wanted to highlight the power of technology. While it can be vast and do great things, it can simultaneously facilitate and fuel crimes against children. For this reason, we must ensure that we are harnessing its power for good.
While onstage, I shared with the audience an unfortunate reality — there are some children abused in photos and videos that law enforcement is unable to identify and rescue. These are children who may first appear in images when they are very young, say only a few years old, and then continue to show up in photos or videos as they grow older, unable to escape their original perpetrator. As more and more people share the content, it becomes harder and harder to trace the original upload and determine the child’s location.
This is a problem that needs to be solved and by working with the best and brightest minds in technology — and Thorn is making great headway.
Another relevant point for the Wired audience was to communicate that Technology Task Force isn’t only made up of companies specifically working in the field of technology, but also advertising companies, design firms, and legal teams, all devoted to ensuring that our work is as effective as possible. For example, a large part of our deterrence program involves advertising technology. Yesterday I heard from some of the best and brightest minds in advertising, and it was extremely valuable to connect with those agencies in the room who may have expertise that would tie in with our programs.
Afterward, a number of people from the audience came forward, wanting to get involved and become part of the solution — a few even donated during the presentation. It’s moments like these, where we can witness people rallying around our work, that keeps us inspired and able to work on such a difficult issue. Yesterday was no exception.
Sarah Gardner is Director of Development at Thorn, and leads Thorn’s development efforts to raise support for all programmatic work, identify potential partners, and expand Thorn’s network on the East Coast. You can watch the presentation ceremony here.