NEW YORK, Feb 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hollywood
actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher urged U.S. legislators on
Wednesday to drum up government support for the development of
new technology to fight online sex trafficking.
Kutcher's comments to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee follows heightened scrutiny of classified advertising
websites such as Backpage.com for carrying ads that offer
children for commercial sex.
"Technology can be used to enable slavery, but it can also
be used to disable slavery," said Kutcher.
He spoke as chairman of Thorn, a tech non-profit that has
produced web-based tools to help police officers identify and
locate victims of trafficking.
The "Spotlight" tool, which Kutcher said has helped identify
6,000 victims in six months, was created after a 2012 sex
trafficking survey found that 63 percent of underage victims
reported being bought or sold online.
Kutcher, who is married to actress Mila Kunis and has two
children, said becoming a parent had propelled his crusade
"The right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away,
it's raped, it's abused, it's taken by force, fraud or coercion
- it is sold for the momentary happiness of another," said the
Each year, up to 300,000 children are at risk of being
trafficked for commercial sex in the United States, according to
the U.S. Department of Justice.
Most sex trafficking victims are advertised or sold online,
according to a U.S. Senate subcommittee report that was released
Backpage.com was hit last week with the latest in a string
of lawsuits that accuse the company of promoting sex trafficking
by running and rewriting ads that offer children for commercial
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Katie
Nguyen and Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers
humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights,
climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)