A high profile celebrity possesses considerable advantage in our connected society today. Their vast following on social media along with a proven ability to garner attention ensures wide coverage from mainstream media and has immense potential to be used for good or bad. Several celebrities make full use of this advantage to become vocal on issues they are passionate about.
Hollywood heartthrob Ashton Kutcher is one such celebrity who has leveraged his popularity and status as an actor and entrepreneur to advocate for vulnerable children caught in the sex trafficking trade. Sex trafficking is a rampant problem across America, one which law enforcement struggles to cope with. Co-founder of a tech company called Thorn, he has been using his familiar face and name for the good of a vulnerable and neglected part of our society, namely children.
Through the use of the software tool “Spotlight,” over 6,000 trafficking victims were identified, of which one-third were minors. This was accomplished in just six months, with the involvement of just a quarter of their user base. The successful tool is now being used by around 4,000 law enforcement officials in 900 agencies.
Kutcher has utilized his celebrity status to open doors of opportunity that many ordinary folk do not enjoy, even testifying about human trafficking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
"I've met victims in Russia, I've met victims in India, I've met victims that have been trafficked from Mexico, victims from New York and New Jersey and all across our country,” he said. "I've been on FBI raids where I've seen things that no person should ever see."
Since then, other celebrities like Carrie Underwood and Kristen Bell too have joined forces and lent their voices in the fight against modern day slavery. Social media plays a big part in their efforts. Movements like the "Shine a Light on Slavery Day" engaged hundreds of thousands of people to draw a red "X" on their hand and posting images on social media. Maybe symbolic, but a powerful statement.
However there is a disturbing tendency to demonize celebrities when they make use of their high profile platforms to voice their concerns. This is what led to a backlash against Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes or Beyonce’s electrifying performance at last year’s super bowl. These are just two examples of smart, successful and passionate individuals being heckled to stop talking about important subjects they are concerned about. The treatment meted out to them was as if they weren’t humans with rights and their valid opinions didn’t reserve an airing.
By lending our support in such instances can only help in the fight against the scourge of child trafficking.