By Anne Keehn, Zimmerman Fellow at Free the Slaves.
Can Twitter end modern day slavery? Ashton Kutcher says social media has the power to give traditionally under-represented voices a major platform. And in the process, bring the issue of slavery to the masses.
At the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, Ashton Kutcher announced his foundation's commitment to eradicating modern day slavery. He made the announcement during a panel discussion on how communication technology can advance human rights.
At last year's Clinton Global Initiative the issue of modern day slavery was highlighted by Bill Clinton himself. Clinton held up FTS President Kevin Bales' book, "Ending Slavery" during one of his speeches and said:
"[Kevin Bales' book] points out there are 27 million people in the world -- a very small percentage of the world's population. A small percentage of the population of the developing world. But 27 million people who are in effect, sold into bondage... everything from prostitution to forced labor in homes to forced labor in factories and fields. No continent is exempt."
He went on to say, "The Bales book I like because it's essentially upbeat. It tells you [slavery] is a problem we can solve and here's how to do it. But it's hard for me to believe we can solve it on a sustainable basis unless in every country there's an economic model that can at least minimize the inequality trap."
Clinton said slavery is "something that I intend to take up next year." And he was true to his word.
The issue of modern day slavery was brought up by Ashton Kutcher in a breakout session moderated by none other than Arianna Huffington, and presented by Nicholas Kristof (the NYT columnist who tirelessly writes about human trafficking and modern day slavery, and co-wrote "Half The Sky" with his wife Sheryl WuDunn). The panel discussion was on the topic of Democracy and Voice: Technology for Citizen Empowerment and Human Rights.
Kutcher announced the launching of an anti-child sex trafficking campaign titled Real Men Don't Buy Girls. The campaign is operated through the DNA Foundation -- an organization founded by Kutcher and his wife Demi Moore. Real Men Don't Buy Girls aims to raise awareness and action about sex trafficking through social media. Kutcher said:
"Demi and I are about to announce a commitment to launch an advocacy campaign to end child sex trafficking, which I think ties directly to the power of this new media -- this social media." He continued, "I was looking the other day at the top 100 media moguls of the world. Ninety percent of which are white males over the age of 40... If you look at the top 100 people on Twitter, 30% are women. Seven percent are African American. They come from different socioeconomic backgrounds," he said. "That's the true democratization of media."