tv Ashton Kutcher Testifies on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking CSPAN February 15, 2017 5:41pm-6:44pm EST
and this is strange, but we're going to recess for just a moment until the next person comes back. and we'll resume. and i apologize for this. but i'm sure lots of people would like to have -- >> i prefer not to talk to no one. >> okay. >> we'll be back. >> although i do it quite often. >> we're in recess until someone returns. thank you.
>> i want to thank our witnesses very much. as you're well aware, we have votes going on right now. but with the chairman's guidance, we shall continue here out of respect for your time. we'll begin with my own questions, as other members roll in, we'll entertain those. but mr. kutcher, and ms. masanino, thank you for your leadership. this is such an important area. we're shining a national spotlight on the importance of it. and i'm just so grateful for your efforts. do you both agree, as you work on this issue, that the state
department's annual trafficking and persons report is a valuable resource in your efforts to fight human trafficking, and the scourge of modern slavery? >> yes. >> yes, absolutely we do. i do. >> you can't solve the problem if you don't know how big it is. >> that's exactly right. so presumably we want the report to be as accurate and comprehensive as possible. >> we do. >> yes. >> these are called leading questions. tomorrow i plan to introduce a piece of legislation called the department of state and united states agency for international development accountability act of 2017. the legislations needed to provide this committee greater transparency regarding the more than 180 general accountability office recommendations for the department of state and usaid that haven't been fully implemented. and among the recommendations are at least two or three recommendations pertaining to
this very area, about which you and so many others are passionate. the legislation will nashl congress and this committee to conduct even more effective oversight, something we can always improve upon. it would require state and usaid a timeline for implementation of these anti-trafficking proposals, as well as other proposals. and it would ensure that any gao recommendation that is not implemented, we're certain as to why that is. given some rationale for that. so given the large number of open recommendations, it would be my hope that most would be implemented, and we can get bipartisan support for this effort. so i'm inviting members of both sides of the aisle to work with me on this legislation. we'll be dropping in tomorrow. i'd like to ask both of our
witnesses about the growing impact of sexual exploitation, forced labor, what we generally call modern slavery, here in our own country. some of my thinking on this issue is informed by good work that has been done in my own state of indiana. with the leadership of the indiana attorney general, our former u.s. attorney and now so many other stakeholders in our state, we have put together a report in our state, the 2016 indiana state report on human trafficking. typically we ask for unanimous consent to enter this into the record. i consent to have it entered into the record. and i think this will be instructive to further your efforts, and those of others who are working on this issue.
this was the product. this report, and the related initiatives, and my own state of indiana, a product of a public/private partnership. to address the unique challenges that our state and others are facing. the report indicates that the coalition of service providers serve 178 trafficked youth in 2016 alone. 178 people in my home state of indiana. of those youth under age 21 served by indiana providers statewide in 2016, nearly all were girls. 94%. as a father of three young girls, i feel particularly passionate about the need to address this. but i note that this is something that afflicts both genders as well. the report found nearly 30% of
those impacted are 15 or younger. and more than 10% are between the ages of 12 and 14. all of my children are younger than that. in indiana, victims were as young as 7, when first trafficked. these statistics are, of course, heartbreaking. they speak to the broader challenges we face nationally and internationally. if you could each speak to whether the trend lines in the state of indiana are reflective of your findings across the country. with respect to -- >> with respect to sex trafficking. >> ages, gender. >> most studies have found that the average age of entry into sexual trafficking is 11 years old. i think most of the numbers that you're finding in your state are accurate. you know, relative to the legislation that you were alluding to earlier, i would
like to ask, then what? so we measure it. we know it's a problem. but then what? and what are the consequences if the reporting isn't there? and what is the consequences if they don't use the tools, the tools aren't being used? i'm just curious about that relative to that legislation. >> i would be happy to indulge that question. so working with the chairman and the ranking member and people on both sides of the aisle, i think we should make every effort to make sure that the state department has a specific concrete plan of action, comprehensive in nature, that would arrest this problem, internationally, since that's the focus of the state department. we also need to have a domestic range of solutions to this. and then we need to resource. we need to resource our action plans. at the state level, at the federal level. i know that's been a point of
emphasis in your own testimony. here on this committee, perhaps the first step is to see that members on both sides of the aisle continue to work to push an authorizing bill, something the chairman has really shown some leadership on recently, and to the extent we can include human trafficking and other things moving forward on that. that's part answer to your question. miss masadino, do you have any thoughts on the trend lines? >> i do. i do think those are reflective of what we see. i also want to say, i think it's really important the state level focus on trafficking. you know, this, as i said, it is a big global problem, very complex and there are lots of different ways we need to tackle it. but it's really quite important, that sounds like extraordinary leadership at the state level, to be tackling these issues really kind of close to home. and, you know, one of the things
that you hear -- you heard from both of us, is the importance of reporting is for the purpose of being able to measure to measur right, and to get data so you know what strategies are working. and one of the things that human rights first has been focused on is making sure that state and federal law enforcement have the resources that they need to go after higher up in the food chain, if you will, of these criminal enterprises that are exploiting people. both on labor and sex trafficking. labor trafficking cases are a much smaller percentage of the overall prosecutions that happen, but they're a greater percentage of the victims in the labor trafficking area. they are much more complex and expensive cases to bring, but they are really important. i think that congress should pay particular attention to making sure that these human
trafficking prosecution units are well funded, and they can work in coalition at the state and local and federal level law enforcement to integrate the solutions to those problems. you also mentioned the public/private partnership piece. >> i did, and that is my next question, so thank you for anticipating it so i don't have to cut into chairman's time now that he has re-entered the room, and maybe you can speak to the importance of that. each of you. and i know that mr. kutcher, you mentioned it in your testimony as well. my path is the indiana state report on human trafficking and the entity it created to help fight this scourge in our own state, it's a not-for-profit initiative. there are over 75 organizations state-wide focused on collectively addressing this issue, and perhaps you could speak to the importance of these sorts of public/private partnerships in addressing modern slavery, each of you. thank you. >> sure.
just to touch on the point that elise is making, and i think that another thing that should not be lost is the focus on the demand prosecution in this space. these are victims. you said it yourself. these kids are 12 years old, 13 years old. that's not a criminal, that's a victim of a crime. if we are not prosecuting the buyers, if we're not prosecuting the traffickers, not just for trafficking but that's statutory rape and it should be treated as statutory rape and prosecuted as rape. i don't think that we do a good enough job yet of addressing that issue in that way. >> do either of you have thoughts on what we might do to bring more of these individuals to justice? to prosecute them? >> it's my understanding there's
initiative under way currently that will address this within the judiciary system. i think the best thing that we can do is to support that initiative. >> continue to support that. >> i think also making sure that these safe harbor provisions that have had so much bipartisan support here in congress that would protect, treat victims like victims, are very very important. the public/private partnership aspect of this i think is absolutely key. there's a lot the government can do and should be doing that all governments globally should be doing and collaborating together on this. but as ashton pointed out, the supply chain issue, the pipeline into slavery, we have to be looking at that. and so i would say that there should be kind of three ps in this public/private partnership. it should be also the private
sector companies. american companies in particular. when i talk about american leadership on this issue, i don't just mean the american government. i mean all of us. in many places in the world, american companies are the american brand. so making sure we enlist those companies, especially now that you all have passed legislation that amends the tariff act, which for decades allowed for this importation of child made and slave made labor through this loophole that was in existence, you have closed that loophole down. that's a potentially transformational thing in the world of human trafficking. now we have to make sure that it is enforced, that the department of homeland security enforces it, and that the companies understand what they need to do. and most companies don't want anything to do with slavery. but many of them don't understand what they need to do to look at their supply chains and make sure that there is no forced labor in there and no
child labor. we have to come together to talk about that, and one of the things that you all could do, a report was due to you from the department of homeland security i think back in august on how they are implementing this very important new provision you have passed. and it has not been submitted yet. so i would urge you to ask for that, and we would love to come in and talk with you about it. >> thank you. thanks for the ideas and again for your counsel on this and we will continue to stay vigilant, even when the klieg lights are off and that's really the important thing with respect to our oversight role. thank you so much for this opportunity. mr. chairman. >> thank you very much for coming back and filling in that way, i very much appreciate it. i have had two, two experiences
i guess that had a big impact on me. one was hearing the statement of someone in the audience, louie giglio speaking to his congregation saying if not you, who? i think we all know what that means and you know, we together who hear that message, need to be the people who involve ourselves in this. and the other was an experience of a group of about 20 young ladies in the philippines going to the police department there, and seeing what a u.s. private entity was doing to teach them about prosecution. seeing how this is a crime of opportunity. some people think it is largely the mafia, and they have definitely been involved, but it
is really as you know a lot of small businesspeople who are taking advantage and they have dominion over feeble people and they use it to make money. part of it, part of the efforts, we need to measure it and end it and that needs to be the focus. part of the effort also has to do with what we do with victims after they have been victimized. one of the efforts that to me was so impressive was seeing how these younger ladies who are 13, 15, and in the rural part of the philippines, and maybe a gentleman came by and said, hey, how would you like to go to manila for the day, and they found themselves in malaysia in a brothel for seven or eight years or they find themselves in a place that they cannot get out of. they also have to have a place to go. they have to have a place to be protected from people who otherwise would kill them for
testifying against them. they've got to have a way of coming back into society. can you speak to personal experiences there, and what we need to do as a nation working with others to address that component, also? >> sure. this is the pipeline out. there are four or five organizations domestically that i think are doing extraordinary work. there is an organization called my life, my choice, journey out, courtney's house, rebecca bender initiative and gems. i have had the privilege to spend some time with gems and look at the organization and sort of assess the effectiveness of it. they do extraordinary work and recognize these victims as victims. they do the best they can to
rehabilitate them. one of the things that we can definitely do is to look across the sector of ngos and pind the ones that are the most effective, and then try to assess what the best practice is of each one of those individual organizations are, and then replicate that and grow it. you know. as you said, as i said, i think there has to be accountability in our spending relative to this but there are some simple low-hanging opportunities within these organizations that i actually think the private sector can come in and be drastically supportive. i mean, the administration roles within these organizations are being done a lot of times on these kinds of books, and i think that there is enterprise software that they could be given away for free by many private companies and that could create massive efficiencies inside of these organizations,
but at the end of the day, you have to have a place to keep these people. you know, i was in russia, and the girls that were getting let out of the orphanages all get let out at the same age, and the traffickers were circling the orphanages waiting for the girls to hit that prime age where they could use them. so if people don't have a place to go, and if they don't have an environment of love and support, and then the expertise to help them with the mental health issue of the abuse that they have endured, they don't get better. i think mental health is a gigantic issue in this country in a lot of ways, and i think that we need to really look at this not only as a slavery issue, but as a mental health issue, ensure that the finances and the support is going into that arena as such. >> this is a problem globally as well.
it's very similar, you know. we have worked closely with many yazidi women, we gave our human rights award last year to a yazidi woman activist who, she and her husband are rescuing women who have been abducted and are being held in sexual slavery by isis. and these women are so traumatized, they are now barred from coming here under this order but they have said if you can't save us from this, then just bomb us, because we can't survive this. one of the things that the united states could be doing there, they need mental health services desperately, and even if they can't come here to get them, and there is more that we could be doing to fund organizations that can provide those kinds of services to women who have suffered just unspeakable horror, many of them are children. >> thank you.
senator menendez is back. he was the lead other sponsor of this legislation and has been my friend and certainly an advocate for victims and human rights. so i thank you, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. first i would ask to submit into the record human rights first's blueprint for congress, how to dismantle the business of human trafficking. >> without objection. >> mr. chairman, first of all, let me say that my experience in the senate, i was speaking to senator young yesterday about the difference between the house and the senate where we both have served, is the fundamental difference is that one senator committed to an idea or an ideal and willing to fight for it can create change. you did that in the context of human trafficking, and made it a singular issue. you were focused on it like a
laser beam. i am glad to have worked with you on it, but clearly, you deserve the credit, and it is the embodiment of what you can do in the senate when you choose to do so. so i want to salute you on that. i have listened to both of your testimony with great interest, and we are having a major caucus on russia right now but this is important. and so i have questions for both of you and i hope to get through it in my time. maybe the chairman will be a little generous with the time. >> take as much as you wish. >> i won't do that, but i do have a couple of questions. ms. massimino, there have been serious questions both on the foreign relations committee and civil society organizations regarding the integrity of the past two years trafficking in persons report. to me, that report is the gold standard, and i want to show why it is so important, and mr. kutcher said that the reports are important but what do we do
with them, and he is right. but the reports begin a template for how we judge the countries in the world. the amendment that i got into law which now denies a country who is in tier 3 of trafficking any preferential access to the united states in terms of any trade agreement is incredibly important, and a powerful tool, but of course, we need the right type of reporting to ensure that those who are in that category don't get arbitrarily and capriciously removed from that category until they have tone the things necessary to be removed from it which is good for the victims of trafficking in their countries, because it means that they will have improved their standards. now, i introduced legislation,' bipartisan legislation with senator rubio, and senator cain and senator gardner to make the sweeping reforms to restore the integrity to the trafficking in
persons ranking process. i believe there is bipartisan consensus that reforming the ranking process is a priority that we should address early in this congress. can you speak to number one, your organization's reactions to the 2015-16 t.i.p. report and what damage if any do you believe that created and to the importance of the integrity of the t.i.p. report as a foundational issue for us globally to challenge countries in the world to do what we think she should be doing to end mode earn day slavery. >> thank you for your leadership on that legislation, and the t.i.p. are report. human rights first has focused a lot of attention for many years on the reports coming out of the state department that have been mandated by congress, and why it is important for those reports to be basically just the facts
not colored by political considerations. for many years the state department country reports annually, and we did a critique of those because we felt there was too much political influence going across administrations from different parties, but there was too much political influence and other concerns going into kind of shading the facts in those reports. so we have been vigilant about, and i think that we stopped doing that critique because we felt that the state department country reports had improved significantly and were much more objective. the point of reports like that is to provide a baseline for policy. they are not policy, but they provide a baseline for policy and that's why it's so important like the reports like the state department country report and the t.i.p. report are just the facts, really have -- and having integrity. so we were very concerned as many were that there appeared to be movements of some countries
up on the scale without any demonstration or transparency of what the reasons were for that. the t.i.p. report has actually been a really important tool for diplomats and others to use. we have instances where countries have really been pressured to actually improve their performance as a result of their ranking process. so, it is really important to have transparency about how those rankings are made, and to make sure that countries don't get a free pass just because we have other business to deal with. >> that is the concern. this is either as important as this committee has dictated in a bipartisan way which means that you cannot subvert its importance because you have economic reasons with a country, maybe to some degree even security reasons with a country,
because when you do that, then you undermine the essence of the importance and the integrity of trying to end human slavery. in that regard, my legislation requires t.i.p. rankings to be contingent on concrete actions taken by a country in the preceding reporting period and that the state department must specify how these actions or lack thereof justify the ranking. a recent gao study highlighted this. would you support those changes? >> yes, i would. >> mr. kutcher, let me ask you. extraordinary work, and i heard it before i had to go vote your answer to the chairman about having the freedom to go big and take a risk to develop a technology that might be the next cutting edge on how we further help law enforcement and other entities both capture the reclaimed those lives that have
been lost to human trafficking and capture those who have been the traffickers themselves, prevent the efforts of trafficking. how is it, i sit in another committee here, the finance committee, which deals with all tax trade and incentives, if there was a way to incentivize that effort by you and others similarly situated, is there a specific way beyond letting you go big? are there tax incentives? are there, and i think about already the systems that you have, and i think about the other countries, maybe one of the requirements we should have is other countries should use the best available technology at the time, something we do not have a requirement, as to estimation whether they are moving in the right direction on human trafficking. can you help me out with that and take what you have done to create a greater opportunity for
its doe deployment? >> yeah. i -- i think that -- at the core, the reason that most of the partners, private company partners in the space or technology companies, because they are naturally incentivized to actually do something about this. so for the most part, there's a cda 230 that these companies want to perform, they want their tool to be used in the right way, they don't want their tool to be regulated because then it regulates the potential of the tool for good. i happen to support that. that notion that it is the user that is the malicious actor. but in order for these companies to maintain that stance, it is my belief that they have to support efforts in technology to actually grow tools that fight against these types of atrocities that are happening on their platforms.
so therefore we have had extraordinarily willing participants in that effort. i think we have also launched a best practices guide for companies relative to trafficking, because i think that when your employees are involved in this space or your company in some way, shape or form touches this space, i think it actually affects the quality of your company and the performance of your company in the long term. i think having companies become aware of these best practice guides, i think there's also a larger issue relative to what we call modern slavery. i think it's actually in the nomenclature of calling it modern slavery. it's just slavery. we are doing a disservice to people who were slaves in this country for so long and the oppression they felt in the years following by not calling it what it is. and if we just call it slavery from the nomenclature
perspective and acknowledge the fact that just because the person is of a different nationality or sold for sex makes it something different so that we can pat ourselves on the back, and say we have abolished this and done all we can, that will have a giant impact, because it motivates people emotionally to actually build things. on the other side, i think that the tools are best built in the private sector and the reason i think that they are best built in the private sector, because we are willing to take the risks and create that accountability. now, when we get to the level where it is becoming a fundamental institution to solving the problem, and we have 4,000 law enforcement officials, and 900 agencies using the tool, well, now we have shown its effectiveness, and that it can be measured and improved and at that point in time, it is
incumbent upon the public sector to step up. we give our tools away for free. they are 100% free. i look at it like facebook. we grow, grow, grow, grow, grow and at some point in time we can turn on a revenue model that creates sustainability within our organization. so i think they are best incubated in the private sector but at a certain point the public sector needs to recognize that tool works, we need that tool, it's effective and we can leverage it doe mmestically and internationally to behoove everyone. >> thank you. finally, ms. massimino, i saw the provision in the bill that senator rubio and others have introduced that requires the multi-lateral development banks to conduct a human trafficking risk assessment for projects in tier two watch lists or tier three countries as a condition of u.s. support. it is my hope these assessments can draw together a wide variety of stake holders from international civil society
organizations, local communities, law enforcement and others, to ensure that development bank projects work to combat human trafficking wherever possible. i hope that as part of that, organizations such as yours would be called upon by the multi-lateral development banks, but it seems to me that we have done a few things here that are important, but we have a lot more tools at our disposition that we can use in the multi-lateral development banks having a strong t.i.p. report, thinking about how we incentivize the technology either by allowing it to be free as you suggested in terms of its ability to go big, thinking about their privacy element so we ultimately don't constrain it in a way that is unnecessary, and maybe even looking at other countries and saying one of the ways in which we will test
whether or not you're moving in the right direction is are you employing the latest available technologies that can help you. so i appreciate what we have gleaned from both of your testimony and look forward to continuing to work with you. do you have a comment? >> yes, i want to underscore that i think that, you know, this provision that you have talked about with the requiring an assessment of implementation of anti-trafficking with the development banks is just part of this what we have been talking about how you take the data to use it to leverage change. i completely agree with you, senator, we have a lot of tools that are not being fully used, to tackle this big problem. and you know, a lot of what you all have done here has, you know, it has moved the ball forward between the federal acquisition regulations and the statute seeking to implement
that, making sure that the changes to the tariff act get implemented. and there is a lot that this body can do to take those tools and make sure they are fully exploited for the good. that takes a lot of attention, it sometimes takes money. if we can pull it together, that is the way to make a dent in this problem. >> thank you. i see my time has -- he helped me to write the bill, and i appreciate your support. >> thank you both for being here. the chairman had to go vote, and le be back any minute. i know you talked about the integrity and the trafficking in persons report. i don't know what's been discussed already. one of the points i made, this is always an issue when it comes to human rights. that's the balance between our geopolitical relations and information about potential allies that is embarrassing. and i think that you would concur that the trafficking report is just a piece of paper
that the government publishes, but haibt im impactful. because we want to shame those who are less than cooperative including the people here at home and those abroad. so i i want to reiterate how critical it is that this report be free from the political interference, and to be blunt, the notion that somebody could come into the state department to say that, look, i don't want ' to change the tiering of the country, because we have a good thing going with them on some other foreign policy issue, and we don't want to offend them, and that occurred in the last report and so we don't want that to happen again. i believe that every advocate believes that out there as well, that these issues, especially as we a nation are being honest about our own trernl internal problems with regard to that. the first thing they want to talk about, mr. kutcher, and the t.h.o.r.n. program, but people are using the internet and with
a seemingly low risk of getting caught. so i am interested in how t.h.o.r.n. collaborates with law enforcement in the united states and around the world especially with countries who have weak criminal justice systems to change the sort of behavior with impunity of this criminal activity and using it as a tool to train law enforcement agencies about victim friendly procedures. there are places around the world, quite frankly, there have been jurisdictions in the united states that if for example someone is being trafficked into prostitution, they are arrested for the crime of prostitution and treated as a criminal, as opposed to as a victim. we have had arguments with law enforcement about that, some of whom argued that's the appropriate way to do it, that's the only way to break them free from the endeavor, in other cases i have had some disagreements with regards to that. how is t.h.o.r.n. is used to break the cycle of impunity of
people thinking they can do anything they want and the penalties in some places are not very high? >> thank you for the question. at its core, one of the issues with sex trafficking and specifically domestically, and most certainly internationally, is the lack of attention it gets from law enforcement. resources i should say. most trafficking divisions in police departments across this country are maybe one or two people, and they are understaffed and underfinanced, and so they really, when we first went in, we were looking at the tools they were using and they were going into chat rooms and trying to strike up conversations with traffickers or trafficking victims in order to get leads on investigation. we saw specifically relative to minors if we could create a platform or tool that helped them prioritize their caseload
by understanding what we call the maturity score of the victim, we could help get the victims as early as possible out of the system. as young as possible out of the system first, and so we have created a prioritization tool, and i will be happy to spotlight it at some point in time. i don't want to reveal too much about it because i don't want to risk the enduring power of the platform. but we help them to prioritize the caseload, and basically what we are doing is just taking this internet which is largely anonymous in many ways and making it far less anonymous, we can track victims as they get trafficked across state lines. we can have investigation tools that allow us to understand the full picture and the full story of the trafficking victim over time, and the trafficker over time which is admissible in court and really good evidence in order to prosecute the cases. >> and this is a question for
both of you, one of the things you hear a lot about, one of the things i find to be the most outrageous of things i have seen. the conduct of backpage.com. there was a
recent article in the miami herald that talked about a local organization filing a federal lawsuit against backpage.com and it found in my hometown of miami-dade over half the adult victims in human trafficking cases and 40% of minor victims were being advertised on backpage.com, as you are probably aware, the senate also conducted an investigation with regard to that report. following that report, backpage has closed the adult section which advertisers solicited services. however, it has been reported the ads are now running on the dating section. some are now asserting and i agree that this is nothing more than a publicity opportunity. i would welcome both of you to comment on that change and in the end, didn't they just change the name of the same activity? >> this has been happening long before backpage. i think six years ago, i started
going after the village voice for advertising sex on their platform and the way i went after them, i went after their advertisers and said do you know this is happening
and the advertisers quickly pulled back and the village voice started to have some issues relative to that. i talked to the founder and ceo of backpage five years ago and said we are watching, we know what's happening, i know you know what's happening, you can either join us in the fight against it, or you are going to become the tool for it and they really sort of didn't want to hear about it. craigslist on the other hand, the founder was very willing and interested in fighting this and was distancing himself from what was happening on his platform. we watched, we technically watched the traffic move from the adult section to the women seeking men section. we watched it. analytically watched it moments
after it was shut down. so it is a game of whack-a-mole, and the only question that we have is that not relative to the censoring it, but can we build the tools that are better than their tools to fight what's happening. there are sites in the united states that do this other than backpage, a lot of them, in fact. there are sites internationally that are doing this, other sites. it's happening all over the place. and it has been happening for decades in print media. we are now recognizing it for what it is, and this is the most important part, and secondarily to that, let's build the tools, and finance the tools, and deploy the tools to fight back. >> so i think that backpage has to be held accountable for what they are doing, and one thing they are doing right now is that
there is evidence that shows they have been doctoring the ads up to 80% of their ads to conceal the underlying transaction, meaning that they are not when they do that, they should not be protected by the law, current law and there's some good reasons for it, says that internet sites that allow third parties to post aren't responsible for the content of that post. you don't have to change the law to go after what backpage is doing right now. it appears that they are intentionally altering ads to make underaged people look like they are consenting adults, and that is despicable and wrong and they should be held accountable for that. >> thanks so much, and before turning to senator coons, we have an operational leader here who years ago in an airport in another country saw a young lady that she thought was being trafficked.
she went to talk to officials, and she came back, and she was gone. and it haunted her. she has committed her life to dealing with this issue, and we thank you for that and thank you for helping us be in the place that we are today, ready to launch what is happening. to that, senator coons. >> senator corker, thank you. i want to thank you for taking the experiences that others have brought to you, and applying your skills and leadership and passion to mobilizing this committee to engaging in a bipartisan way in legislation, and to fighting tirelessly for funding, and to empowering organizations that have got the skills and the tools and the passion to now go out to make a difference, and i'm excited about the opportunity to continue working with you in this critical fight to end human slavery in the modern era, thank you for your leadership on this, chairman corker. there are other great members who are leaders on this, and
senator cardin, senator menendez and others. i spent a lot of time in africa and it is tragic what we know happens to people who are victims in this country and in countries around the world. i mostly just want to thank you, ashton kutcher, thank you for your leadership and your innovation. i'm excited to see your tool and how it works and to better understand what t.h.o.r.n. is deploying here in the united states. and you've got some terrific people working with you. julia and others who help make this real each and every day. ms. massimino, and the human rights first, thank you for providing the analysis, and the support. there are a lot of great organizations in this space. we need many, many more. the scope of this problem dwarfs the resources we currently have deployed against it. there are days here that are
some somewhat partisan and frustrating and we don't get as much done as we would like. this is a moment worth focusing on because it is a moment where we can recognize significant progress. i am the co-chair of the law enforcement caucus, and given what i read in the testimony, and what i have heard, i hope that we have a chance to talk further about exactly how we get u.s. law enforcement better funded, better engaged, better equipped to deploy these tools and resources and better trained. in my previous life i was responsible for a county police force, i am confident that they don't have as much in the way of resources as they would need and we are a county that was bisected by i-95 and were on a regular basis, we had homeless and runaway kids, victims of domestic violence and i'm certain of trafficking as well. yet could have done much more with more resources. we had one officer who did what you are talking about, went into chat rooms, tried to gather
evidence, tried to help pursue and prosecute child prostitution, child pornography cases. very dedicated, very loyal, very skilled officer. there are a few more resources today but still far below what it should be. so i just have three questions, if i might. first, i am interested in how to expand t.h.o.r.n.'s model globally. i think you made a significant impact so far but if you look at the level of resources and training and access in u.s. law enforcement as we all know in the developing world, law enforcement courts, transparency are significantly less resourced. so i'd be interested in hearing how you think that the further investment by the united states government in the end modern slavery initiative might inspire engagement from our private sector. it is exciting the digital partners, and the information technology partners that you
have brought to the table here, how might more investment in our appropriations leverage significant increased resources from private sector and second, what are the limits to spotlight internationally? what are the challenges you face in trying to really scale this up, but in countries where mobile technology is now widely available, but where the transparency, reliability of the law enforcement system is significantly below what we would hope and expect. and then just on a personal enthusiasm, a whole group of us worked together last year, and senators, flake, menendez, murphy, to pass the wildlife trafficking act, and that is not so different from the human trafficking. the criminal networks that benefit from wildlife trafficking from killing and then selling parts, whether it's rhino horn or elephant tusk, are also the same criminal networks involved in trafficking people.
how can we reinforce those two efforts that engage two separate ngos but with the same goal to end grotesque activity that destroys and denigrates wildlife and whole communities and enslaves people? and now, the first question of how we might invest more and extend the reach, ashton. >> yes, we have two tools that i talked about today that are built, and several others that are built and deployed. as i mentioned the heavy lifting to a certain extent is done. the key to the ongoing success of the tools is continuing to iterate on those tools and make them better over time. and senator rubio mentioned backpa backpage, they shut down one section of their site and another pops up. these things become incumbent upon us to have a malleable tool that can effectively work in all markets.
but now that the database is built and the algorithm is built relative to understanding the conte contextual understanding of this content, our understanding internationally is relatively simple in so much as we just need to find the environments that are being utilized for trafficking in those spaces and put them into our engine. and now the trick which you alluded to relative to limits on that is there are some countries where this platform probably won't work, but it is incumbent upon us to build the next tool that will work there. and you know, a lot of this trafficking, and the exchange and the advertisement of sex slavery happens online. in some sense, there is a benefit to that, right, because in some ways, it can be tracked,
but building the tool relative to that specific market isn't trivial. we are currently working with international partners, canada is using our spotlight tool, and we are talking to the uk about using our spotlight tool, we think it will be very effective in those markets. and sour dark web tool is being used in international spaces, i will just say, by several people. it is proving to be effective, because the same dark web tool created by the national research lab is the same tool used internationally. so really just training our database to have an understanding of variable languages and things like that is fully do-able. the limits, the real limit is the fact that, you know, we are only sitting at the identification barrier, right? that is the limit.
we can identify these people. i can identify all of the people in the world, right? but if we don't have the right resources on the inbound side and on the outbound side, it's just going to be a cycle. having a holistic understanding of the issue and approaching it from that perspective is essential to actually solving the problem. and relative on the wildlife piece, definitely on the dark web, our tool could be repurposed for specifically that. if somebody was so interested and passionate about that issue in the same way that i am passionate about solving sex trafficking, our tool could be repurposed for something like that if need be. >> that is an intriguing conversation. i would love to follow up on it. >> the big picture issue here is around the risk/reward equation.
how do you keep people from going into the business of exploiting others through slavery. right now, the -- this is as i said is a low-risk enterprise for the bad guys and high reward. how to flip that, you have to increase the risk, and that includes through law enforcement, through reputational and other damage to companies that don't do a good job of getting rid of slavery in their supply chain, and decrease the reward. we have to tackle both sides of that, and as you keep hearing, some of the pieces of this problem really can be solved or significantly advanced through increased resources. so on the close to home kind of
perspective, in the tbpa reauthorization, for example, it would be really good to have designated human trafficking prosecutors. there were only 297 of these prosecutions last year, and if there were a provision that authorized human trafficking prosecutors in the u.s. attorney's office, i think that number would go up and they could be responsible, kind of the hub, the point person, for cultivating the relationships with all the different agencies that deal with this. we have seen jurisdictions with that type of collaboration increases their cases filed by 119% and defendants charged up by 86%. so some of this is a resource question. i mentioned the federal acquisitions regulation, again, like the tariff act, transformational change in the way we do business, we the united states do business. i think that if we were to fully implement those regulations we
need to authorize human trafficking compliance advisers in the counsel's offices of state, d.o.d., labor, gsa, all of these places who would work with the contracting officers and make sure that this is really being taken seriously. so there are lots of -- there's a lot of potential here right now that's not being fully implemented and with congressional oversight and attention on all of those, you all started a lot of that. now to follow it through, making sure it's fully implemented, i think those could be transformational. >> and ms. massiminob and mr. kutcher, and to you and your organizations, and everybody who supports them and volunteers with them, i close by saying that sexual slavery and human trafficking is some of the darkest activity that happens in the world. it thrives in dark places, it feeds on dark aspects of human nature. i am grateful for your work, and mr. chairman, for your
leadership in shining light on this problem, and on bringing to all of us not just hope, but confidence that we can solve this, we can address this by appealing to the light within all of us and by coming together in a way that actually brings light to this darkest of subjects. thank you for your work. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you for your leadership on this issue and so many others. i know that we have a meeting after this to build on this and look at some of the tools in private that are being utilized, but i want to thank you both for outstanding testimony for committing your lives to this issue, and for being examples and bringing notoriety, and bringing awareness if you will to this issue that plagues us all. there will be some follow-up questions. i know you have a couple of day jobs and you do, too. there may be some follow-up
questions afterwards. we will try to to keep them to a minimum knowing that you have other things that you are doing in life. this has been an outstanding hearing. we positively apologize, there's a lot happening up here on the hill as you know and has been reported. it's taking people in a lot of different directions right now. this has been a very impactful hearing. we look forward to building upon it. one of the things that i do wish that we could have touched more on is that i know that you have alluded to this, ashton, is that the sexual piece and the day labor piece, and there are a lot of differences that exist, too, and some of the cultures that we ' deal with in other parts of the world, and the collection of the passports and i know that when we visit countries now it's one of the first things we bring up. i'm heading to that part of the world this weekend. but there are cultural aspects that are barriers and people again, unwittingly think they
are going to a country for a particular job for a period of time and end up being entrapped there. so there may be some questions in that regard, too. again, the lives that you are leading, and the example that you are setting for us, and the willingness to come here and go right back to other work is deeply appreciated. i don't know if either one of you, because it is a informal hearing, wish to say anything in closing but you're welcome to if you wish. >> i'd just like to say thank you. as i mentioned before, this is one of the greatest honors in my life and i know that the work you do is strife with conflict and headlines that dominate your time and pull you in directions that oftentimes you don't even want to go, but if we really care about ending slavery, if we
really care about doing the right thing here, we will realize that there will be negative repercussions of our actions. i think that the biggest thing that i got out of being here today, i got reminded of a story a friend of mine told me about a rabbi named hilel who was asked to explain the torah while standing on one leg. and he said love thy neighbor as thyself and everything else is just commentary. >> thank you. well, i always want to say thank you so much to you in particular, mr. chairman, who really have put this issue on the map in the united states congress in a way that it has never been before. and now using that awareness, that growing awareness, that we
all have to end modern slavery. you know, i think it was senator mccain who said this is not a pretty topic and a lot of people, particularly americans, don't like to think about it. don't want to talk about it. and would rather pretend that it doesn't exist. and particularly don't want to see the ways in which we are all complicit in this problem. so you have made that harder for people and i want to thank you and all the members of the committee who have done so much to make people uncomfortable about this issue. and that's where it starts. so thank you very much. >> thank you both. we are going to walk across the hall i think and view how some of this that you have developed works so well. we thank you for that. the meeting is adjourned.
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