Ashton Kutcher-Backed Hackathon Aims To Fight Child Pornography, Stop Online Exploitation

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Ashton Kutcher
Cast member Ashton Kutcher poses at the premiere of "Jobs" in Los Angeles, California August 13, 2013.

As many as 150 people will come together later this month for 48 hours for a “hackathon” to fight child exploitation and underage pornography online. The event, dubbed the Thorn Hackathon, has been organized in part by Ashton Kutcher, the star of “That ‘70s Show” who, while being a tabloid favorite, has dedicated much of the past few years to stopping the online victimization of children.

Kutcher is a co-founder of Thorn, which describes itself as a research group that partners with “nonprofits and academic institutions to gather new insights into the role technology plays in child sex trafficking, the creation and proliferation of child pornography and the normalization of child sexual exploitation.”

Applicants can sign-up now to participate in the event, set for Aug. 23-24. The full roster of judges has yet to be announced, but Kutcher and Joe Lonsdale, the co-founder of Palantir Technologies, Addepar and Formation 8, are currently slated to sit on the panel. The criteria they’ll judge also remains unclear, with the challenge so vast and nefarious, it’s difficult to see how much progress will have been completed by the end of the two-day session.

“Participants will be asked to work on a variety of challenges facing the organization and its partners in the fight against child exploitation,” Thorn stated. “This will include challenges like: analyzing large data sets to identify patterns and linkages to help identify potential trafficking victims and/or perpetrators, extracting data from images and creating an ability to sort/access this data, working on programs within tor networks and more.”

This announcement comes amid an increased focus on curbing child pornography, which lies in the so-called Deep Web that’s only accessible with Tor or other online identity cloaks. Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) made headlines Monday for passing on critical information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about a man who transmitted child pornography through his Gmail account. 

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