Sex Trafficking

Ashton Kutcher Claims He Helped Cops Save Way More Sex-Trafficking Victims Than Authorities Say They've Found

How can Kutcher's group have helped in dramatically more sex-trafficking investigations than were actually opened across America?

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On Wednesday, actor Ashton Kutcher testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on behalf of Thorn, an anti-sexual exploitation organization he co-founded with Demi Moore. Thorn's main project is Spotlight, a cloud-based data-collection and analysis tool that purportedly helps police find sex traffickers. According to Kutcher's testimony before Sen. John McCain and other U.S. lawmakers, the app—supported by the McCain Institute—has helped save more than 6,000 U.S. sex-trafficking victims, including 2,000 minors, in the past 12 months.

But there's something fishy about these and other stats put forth about Spotlight. According to Cloudera, the company behind Spotlight's technology, the app was used in 8,305 criminal investigations into sex trafficking between September 2015 and September 2016, identifying 4,624 adult victims and 2,025 minor sex-trafficking victims (defined in the U.S. as anyone under age 18 engaging in prostitution).

These numbers wildly outpace the average number of new criminal investigations into sex trafficking opened in the U.S. each year or average number of victims identified by U.S. law enforcement. For instance, between late 2009 and late 2015, FBI agents working with state and local police across America identified an average of just 175 minor victims per year, according to the Attorney General's 2015 Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The report also notes that in government fiscal-year 2015, the FBI identified around 672 adult and child victims of sex or labor trafficking. The FBI opened 802 human-trafficking investigations (resulting in 453 convictions) that year, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) opened 1,034 sex- or labor-trafficking investigations (and got 51 sex-trafficking convictions). In addition, Uniform Crime Reporting data from the states indicates that 744 investigations into state-level sex-trafficking offenses were opened in 2015.

There's almost certainly overlap between the FBI and state investigations. But even if we count all cases separately, we're looking at a total of 2,580 investigations into sex or labor trafficking—5,725 less cases than Thorn allegedly helped identify in a one-year period.

While final state and federal data from 2016 has not yet been released, the Justice Department did put out a January 2017 report summing up the previous year's efforts to combat human trafficking. It mentions neither a significant increase in the number of victims identified or investigations opened in 2016. The FBI and its human-trafficking task force partners among state and local law-enforcement opened around 1,800 investigations into sex- or labor-trafficking last year.

How can Kutcher's group have helped in dramatically more sex-trafficking investigations than were actually opened across America? I can see two explanations. But first, it's important to note how Spotlight works. While no one involved will divulge specifics—Kutcher told Congress he "can't disclose exactly how it works," and my multiple attempts to communicate with Thorn have gone unanswered—what we do know about the app is that it collects and analyzes adult ads posted to Backpage and similar sites. Using proprietary techniques, Spotlight pinpoints ads allegedly likely to feature sex trafficking.

It's impossible to know how accurate their method is without more details. But the majority of adult ads on Backpage are posted by sex workers themselves, and the people arrested in cops' "human trafficking" stings based on these ads are predominantly sex workers and/or men looking to pay other adults for sex. Police might be looking for trafficking victims when they contact ads featuring young-looking women or certain supposed code words, but when their hunches don't pan out (and this is most of the time), they arrest the target for prostitution.

Considering the data we do have on state and federal human trafficking cases, the only way the numbers from Kutcher's group could make sense is if a) they're counting every red-flag ad Spotlight identifies, regardless of whether these tips are ultimately deemed worthwhile enough to prompt a criminal investigation, or b) they're counting cases of consensual prostitution between adults and lumping all adult sex workers identified into the "adult trafficking victim" numbers.

CORRECTION: This post previously said Thorn funding came from the McCain Foundation, when it actually gets support from the McCain Institute at Arizona State University.

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  1. “an anti-sexual exploitation organization he co-founded with Demi Moore.”

    In response to an indecent proposal?

    1. + $1,000,000 for one night

    2. Roman Polanski’s a big fan.

  2. an anti-sexual exploitation organization he co-founded with Demi Moore

    The things a man will do for love. SMDH.

    1. The things a man woman will do for love. SMDH.

      Since he’s the 1/2 of that relationship that’s still involved with the organization, methinks Demi Moore was the one playing along.

  3. Or c) They got PUNK’D!!

  4. Obviously, it’s The Butterfly Effect at work here.

  5. I won’t make any references to Ashton Kutcher’s so-called career. He’s a joke and the fact that he’s testifying before Congress and being taken seriously an even bigger joke.

    Also, Mila Kunis is incredibly overrated.

    PS – Nick should spend less time gelling his hair and jerking off with his leather jacket, and more time making sure that a basic function of his website functions.

    1. Demi, is that you?

  6. Is Ashton Kutcher’s face more or less punchable than that of Topher Grace?

    1. This face in this picture, punchable, stompable, slappable.

      1. See it would be a dilemma but I would have to go with Topher, both for his ridiculous name and for taking the role of Eddie Brock/Venom in Spiderman 3.

        1. Topher isn’t perpetuating the sex trafficking myth, which will no doubt sap many of their personal liberty, therefore the answer is Ashton.

          Also, I’m jealous that Ashton probably placed his tongue on Mila Kunis’ Ukranian poon, which I assume tastes like Jim Beam Apple, which is probably gross, and now I am not jealous anymore.

  7. Gaak. That smug look on his face, and the adoring looks of the people around him. “Our hero” you can read in their faces. Yah, serious people. Serious Top.Men.

    Makes me retch.

  8. Was he talking about the women he dated?

    1. No, he’s talking about putting the Two And A Half Men casting director out of work.

  9. But what does Jah Rule have to say about it?

    1. “Holla, holla, it’s murdah.”

  10. The obvious answer is Ashton is personally rescuing those victims without state involvement.

    I hear that pimps call him Kutcher the Butcher.

  11. Shouldn’t he like try to find his car before he tries saving the world?

  12. According to Kutcher’s testimony before Sen. John McCain and other U.S. lawmakers, the app?funded by the McCain Foundation?has helped save more than 6,000 U.S. sex-trafficking victims, including 2,000 minors, in the past 12 months.

    Fun fact: the United States is Saudi Arabia.

  13. How can Kutcher’s group have helped in dramatically more sex-trafficking investigations than were actually opened across America? I can see two explanations

    I see a third: that the secret investigations are being held inside Demi Moore’s thicket.

  14. Massimino gave testimony:

    “According to the State Department’s most recent annual Trafficking in Persons report, in 2015 there were just over 6,600 convictions globally, and only 297 convictions for human trafficking here in the United States. That may seem like a lot, but when you consider that there are nearly 21 million people enslaved around the world today, it is pitifully few.”

    1. … while the social justice plebes/religious fucknuts and their system of psychopathic enforcers continually crush the mostly-safe adult sex business 200,000 murders have gone unsolved since the 60’s.

      Finding the murderers of dead innocent humans is evidently much less rewarding than arresting and imprisoning Nancy and Jimbo for a 50-dollar fucking blowjob.

  15. Violently-spinning treads of moral superiority brim with the appalling ruins of consenting rational adults discreetly going about their business.

    It’s fucking one thing to offer salvation to the truly vulnerable, but it’s goddamn barbarity to witness these social justice savages decimate the lives of harmless sex workers and the clients they rely on.

  16. All this hysteria over 175 kids a year in a country of 320 million? Well at least those kids who are ‘saved’ can look forward to being used as pawns in some grandstanding prosecutors sex trafficking case while they spend the few remaining months of their childhood living in some crappy foster home until they’re thrown to the curb.

  17. Follow the money.

  18. This overlooks the simplest explanation; he’s lying. He knows (or thinks he knows) that the Sex Trafficking hysteria is strong now, and nobody of any importance is going to challenge his figures as long as be doesn’t get silly (claiming a hundred thousand would be silly). So he’s lying his fool head off, and expects to be lavishly funded in return.

    *spit*

  19. He did it by inviting them to his home after Charlie Sheen was done with them.

  20. For instance, between late 2009 and late 2015, FBI agents working with state and local police across America identified an average of just 175 minor victims per year, according to the Attorney General’s 2015 Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

    So they have led to 15x greater rate of saving sex trafficking victims. Obviously the project must be working.

    1. But they’re still just scratching the surface of the tens of thousands of exploited minors in Texas alone!

  21. kutcher is one of those people that likes to play the part of being a renaissance man. there always seems to be questions about his claims regardless of what he’s involved with too. my guess is it comes from the insecurity of being a bad actor that people have otherwise long forgotten.

    somehow, he still got demi moore and mila kunis to sleep with him. he’s not unlike that shirtless guy with a guitar on a college campus that co-eds think is really dreamy, but in reality doesn’t really even go to that school or know how to play the guitar.

  22. Or c) they’re making shit up.

    Whatever happened to a skeptical press?

  23. “Spotlight” is Apple’s disk-searching tool. It’s been a feature of Mac OS X for about a decade now.

    -jcr

  24. So he’s including the ones whose purchase he didn’t make himself.

    Or maybe he’s completing the purchase and then doing a catch and release program?

  25. Sex trafficking would virtually disappear if prostitution were legalized and the age of consent were lowered.

  26. “How can Kutcher’s group have helped in dramatically more sex-trafficking investigations than were actually opened across America?”

    Um, he turned his loose?

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