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Thorn; Digital Defenders of Children

"Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it — in partnership with you. The change we seek will not come easy, but we can draw strength from the movements of the past. For we know that every life saved — in the words of that great Proclamation — is 'an act of justice'; worthy of 'the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God'."


— President Barack Obama

What Is Sex Trafficking?

All information below is from  the "Thorn Digital Defenders of Children" website!


What is child pornography?

Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age). Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor. Electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography is also deemed illegal under federal law.

Furthermore, Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, reception and possession of an image of child pornography, whereupon violation of this law is a felony, and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison (United States Department of Justice).

What is child sexual abuse imagery?

Another word for child pornography, “child sexual abuse imagery” is the term that those working to put an end to this horrific crime have begun using instead of child pornography. Child sexual abuse imagery is a more widely encompassing term, and refers to content that depicts sexually explicit activities involving a child. Child sexual abuse images and videos are most often documented with the purpose of being shared widely for others to watch, and in so doing, victimizing the child many times over.

While the Internet is helping facilitate the movement of child sexual abuse content, Thorn is using the Internet to prevent the spread of child sexual abuse imagery in the first place and leverage the information online to better identify and assist victims.

How did the sharing of child sexual abuse imagery become such a big problem?

The sharing of child sexual abuse imagery exploded with the expansion of the Internet in the early 1990s. Once shared via the postal service, child sexual abuse images and videos are now shared freely on peer-to-peer networks, where users believe they are safe from the law.

In 2002, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) started collecting child sexual abuse images as part of its Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP). This program aims to identify multiple images that depict the same child for a twofold goal: (1) to assist federal and state law enforcement agencies in determining which seized images depict identified child victims; and (2) to assist law enforcement in locating unidentified child victims.

At Thorn, we are working to prevent further spread of this content and to use intelligence gathered online to work with law enforcement to advance victim identification.

What is sextortion?

Sextortion is a form of sexual exploitation that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim. Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion. This is often times achieved through months of grooming on the part of the abuser, that leads to a form of sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information is the means of coercion. Often this crime occurs when a child sends sexually explicit images to someone they’ve met online and then that person uses those images to extort more graphic images or behavior from the child.

What is live-streaming child abuse?

Live-streaming child abuse refers to instances where individuals pay to watch the live abuse of a child via a video streaming service. This type of abuse is incredibly difficult to detect due to its real-time nature and the lack of digital evidence left behind after the crime.

How is viewing child sexual abuse imagery different from sexually abusing a child?

From research, we know that there are several people engaged with this content online who are ‘observers’ and are not hands-on abusers. We work to intercept and deter their behavior – encouraging them to seek help before it’s too late. This aims to reduce the future threat to children and to allow law enforcement to focus efforts on those who are hands-on abusers.

It’s important for everyone to talk about child pornography, child sexual abuse, sextortion and live-streaming child abuse and educate themselves on this important issue. You can learn more by reading more about child sexual abuse imagery statistics here: