Ashton Kutcher has a pet peeve: He hates it when people film tragedies-in-progress on their phones. If you're at the scene of an accident and equipped with a high-powered piece of technology, Kutcher believes, you should be using it to dial 911, not create a viral video.
In a speech at the Dreamforce conference on Monday, the actor-turned-investor-turned-activist discussed his nonprofit project, Thorn, which aims to use technology to combat sexual abuse of children. Kutcher urged the audience to view technology as a neutral tool that could be mobilized for any purpose: "It is not the force for good or the force for evil. That's you. You are the force for good or the force for evil."
Kutcher explained that child porn, one of the primary vectors of abuse, is a "giant problem." He told the audience, "There are millions of images that are transferred daily of child abuse material." Thorn invests in research and tools to help law enforcement and other nonprofits identify both victims and abusers. For example, Thorn partnered with Twilio and the Salesforce Foundation in 2013 to create a text messaging service for The National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The work is paying off. Kutcher, who cited U2 frontman Bono as his philanthropic inspiration, said, "We've identified 6,000 children that are being abused. We've identified 12,000 adults that are also being abused, and 6,000 abusers."
"The only question we have to ask ourselves is, 'How good are we?'" he told the audience. Kutcher concluded by challenging the audience to find an issue they are passionate about and take responsibility for a problem they didn't create. "I've articulated my purpose. The question is, what is yours?"