Chris Wexler on Using AI to Protect the Vulnerable


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In this second episode of the fifth season, Frank and Andy speak to Chris Wexler about using AI to protect the vulnerable.

Speaking of which, I would like to advise you, dear listener, that this show touches on some sensitive areas, namely child sexual abuse materials.

If you have little ears or sensitive persons within listening range, you may want to pause or skip this episode.


00:00:00 BAILey

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science and artificial intelligence.

00:00:07 BAILey

In this second episode of the 5th season, Frank and Andy speak to Chris Wexler about using AI to protect the vulnerable.

00:00:13 BAILey

Speaking of which, I would like to advise you, dear listener, that this show touches on some sensitive areas, namely child sexual.

00:00:20 BAILey

Abuse materials.

00:00:22 BAILey

If you have little ears or sensitive persons within listening range, you may want to pause or skip this episode.

00:00:28 BAILey

Don't say we didn't warn you.

00:00:30 BAILey

Now on with the show.

00:00:31 Frank

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

00:00:39 Frank

If you like to think of data as the new oil, then you can think of us as well Car Talk because we focus on where the rubber meets the verb.

00:00:46 Frank

Road and with me on this epic virtual road trip down the information superhighway, as always is Andy Lander. How's it going, Andy?

00:00:54 Andy

Good Frank, how are you brother?

00:00:56 Frank

I'm doing alright, I'm doing alright. We've had a chaotic week at Chateau Lavinia we. We ended up going to Baltimore in the middle of the night on.

00:01:05 Frank

Wednesday, wow, so you pick up.

00:01:06 Andy

Wow, what was in Baltimore?

00:01:06 Andy

What was in Baltimore?

00:01:09 Frank

A really good pizza, but mostly we went because there was a situation bad situation where the pit bull that was about to go to a shelter and so we do a lot of fostering and rescuing of dogs.

00:01:25 Frank

So we just got her out and we've spent kind of the rest of the week all over our free time trying to find our new home and she landed in the new home on Saturday and she's doing great. So that's.

00:01:37 Andy

That's awesome, and it's really it's really awesome y'all do that kind of stuff.



00:01:42 Frank

Yeah, I always wanted to do it, but it only and it's only been in the last. You know, maybe like 5-10 years I've been able to do it, so we've been doing that.

00:01:51 Frank

Cool, the risk of fostering is primarily foster failing. How we we got our current dog count up to five.

00:01:59 Frank

Uh, while twelve. That weekend, my wife and I counted it like 12 dogs who kind of come through our house the last two years. Three years.

00:02:06 Andy


00:02:07 Frank

So it's a good thing to do. We have the space to do it and.

00:02:12 Frank

You know at the time this one, we didn't know anything about, so we had to kind of keep her isolated.

00:02:17 Frank

So we had like this airlock system. She's a super sweetheart with people, but she's kind of iffy around other dogs and she she's super strong. So once she had her mind to do something it takes a lot of effort.

00:02:18 Andy




00:02:32 Frank

To corral her.

00:02:34 Frank

But she's super happy. She's the only dog in her new home and she has them wrapped around her little paw already, so.

00:02:42 Frank

How things go?

00:02:42 Andy

That's funny, things are good, you know, pretty quiet weekend. Here we have, uh, it's warmer weather. We're recording this on the Ides of March.

00:02:54 Andy

Now debatably, the upwards of March, yes, depending on who you talk to, it's probably the 13th, but I don't, I don't know.

00:02:54 Frank

Well, you are smart.

00:03:02 Andy

But we're on the 15th of March 2021 and it's starting to warm up. Our greenhouse is is being put to use.

00:03:11 Andy

We have some seedlings in there and that's always fun and we've got some raised beds out to the side of the house. Those are.

00:03:19 Andy

There's a starting to come. We're starting to see different things come up. They're kind of colder weather crops, so we started assigning couple three weeks ago.

00:03:29 Andy

And it's you know it's been nice. I love getting outside and working, especially this time of year. The bugs haven't shown up yet.

00:03:36 Frank

So pollen.

00:03:37 Andy

The pollen is really low, it's there, but it's really.

00:03:40 BAILey


00:03:41 Andy


00:03:41 Frank

It hasn't affected me yet, so.

00:03:43 Andy

Oh good good yeah.

00:03:45 Frank


00:03:47 Andy

It's good that time is coming, so let's enjoy it while we can.

00:03:51 Frank

Oh, I totally agree. There's like 2 weeks a year where the weather in DC is wonderful and this is one of those two weeks so.

00:03:55 BAILey


00:03:56 Andy

That's it, that's it.

00:03:58 Frank

Uh, so today we have an awesome guest and and this is, you know, in our in our HR we always talk about where the rubber meets the road in terms of you know how a I can you know how data becomes AI now a I can kind of help businesses and I think this time we have an interesting guest because now we're not just talking about helping AI.

00:04:18 Frank

But we're helping society.

00:04:20 Frank

Uh, and you know, I'll make sure Bailey has a kind of intro speech that if you have little little ears in the car, you may not.

00:04:29 Frank

You may want to listen to this later or listen to this on a headset, because we're going to be talking about human trafficking and all the sorts of horrible things that happen to kids.

00:04:39 Frank

And but he's doing some. He's doing some great work in terms of leveraging the power of AI.

00:04:46 Frank

To help child sexual abuse materials that are online as well as you know, kind of human trafficking and all the bad things that happen with the technology we like to focus on all the wonderful things. But there's a clearly a large underbelly.

00:05:06 Frank

To the Internet and I'm I'm a big believer in transparency because what happens when you I grew up in New York City?

00:05:16 Frank

Cockroaches are inevitable no matter what you do. One thing is when the lights come on, they all scatter. So I I think bad things tend to happen in the shadows and you know.

00:05:29 Frank

So the more light you turn on, I think the better it is for society as a whole. So with that I'd like to introduce.

00:05:36 Frank

Chris Wexler, who is the CEO at Crunch Krenim Craney I. We covered this in the green room.

00:05:43 Frank


00:05:44 Chris

Crew on crew nob. It's OK.

00:05:46 Andy

Rudoff crew Nam. There we go.

00:05:49 Frank

I I need to drink more coffee in the morning, but Trudeau is in the business of removing what I like this term that he uses digital toxic waste from the Internet and using AI to identify. I never heard this acronym before, but Sicam child sexual abuse materials.

00:06:09 Frank

And other awful content to help content moderation and his technology is already in use by law enforcement and is now moving into.

00:06:21 Frank

The the private sector and there's a whole bunch of stuff we could talk about, but particularly what's interesting is a for profit startup or social benefit corporation so we can talk about that.

00:06:32 Frank

But I like to work so welcome Chris to the show and and thank him for putting up with some of.

00:06:36 Frank

The scheduling growing pains that we're having.

00:06:40 Chris

Yeah, no. It's it's really great to meet you guys and.

00:06:43 Chris


00:06:43 Chris

00:06:44 Chris

I understand having five dogs. I definitely hearing the intro. I understand I like to refer to my house as the event horizon. If an animal comes in, it never gets out, so I I understand.

00:06:55 Frank

Ha ha ha ha.

00:06:58 Frank

Yeah, we are. Our track record is 5050 so.

00:07:02 Frank

Uh, I I tell you that dog was better with other dogs. She would she would she bring what a bit of current president.

00:07:08 Chris


00:07:11 Andy


00:07:11 Frank


00:07:11 Frank

00:07:13 Andy


00:07:14 Frank

How did you?

00:07:15 Frank

Get started in this and and and and your name. Uh, how did the name of the company come about? 'cause I think that's an interesting story right there.

00:07:22 Chris

Yeah, well kronom is. It's named in honor of a human trafficking child trafficking warrior in Thailand, kronom. Her name is 2 words crude.

00:07:33 Chris

Nam was a street artist in Chiang Mai and actually doing very well. Very well renowned. I mean, did a project with the street kids there.

00:07:42 Chris

And and said, hey just paint your life and she could not believe what they painted. It was eye opening.

00:07:51 Chris

And when she realized that a lot of the karaoke bars in Chiang Mai were fronts for child sexual trafficking, she was compelled to do something. And unlike I think 99.9% of the population, including myself.

00:08:09 Chris

She just marched into the.

00:08:13 Chris

The karaoke bars and pulled kids out and she had done this 20 times and had twenty kids in her little apartment. When the traffickers came and said, if you do that again, we're going to kill you at, at which point she went north and found a way to do that and has constantly been evolving her tactics.

00:08:34 Chris

And what she's done for the last 20 years and now she's saved thousands of kids. One of the first kids she rescued just was one of the first stateless, was the first stateless child in Thailand to graduate from university.

00:08:48 Chris

She's just been such an inspiration to us and you know, I think if you go from top to bottom.

00:08:53 Chris

In our organization at Kronom, we've.

00:08:56 Chris

All been confronted with what's going on in the world and been compelled to change what we're doing to try to help.

00:09:05 Chris

Try to help others in the space of human trafficking and so it just made sense to all of us to name the company in her honor.



00:09:15 Andy

Well, we talked a little in the green room about about some of the other organizations you mentioned. Your brother had started a similar organization.

00:09:22 Chris


00:09:24 Chris

Yeah, he and David Batstone started not for sale back in I think 2006 or 7.

00:09:33 Chris

And it was actually started because Kronom reached out to them and said, I've got 40 kids in a field and are lean to burn down.

00:09:42 Chris

And you said you might be able to help. So my brother strapped $10,000 to his body to go up to the field and so she could rebuild a space for him.

00:09:44 Andy


00:09:52 Chris

So she even started that organization, but they have since been just bringing innovation to the field of human trafficking.

00:10:01 Chris

Left and right, and, uh.

00:10:05 Chris

And so it's interesting that.

00:10:08 Chris

Kronom was it is a joint venture with a company out of London called Vigil AI, which has largely been in the defense and public safety space. Like really doing proof of concept.

00:10:25 Chris

Uh projects, though, like stuff that just you know I the geek in me just gets so excited when I hear what they do.

00:10:34 Chris

But, uh.

00:10:36 Chris

Vigil AI was one side of it. The other side was just business, which was the venture group that not for sale and non profit started because what we what they realized was that.

00:10:49 Chris

The dichotomy of for profit and non profit really didn't work when you're trying to solve really big problems, it's great for direct service, but when you're trying to solve a really big problem.

00:11:01 Chris


00:11:01 Chris

00:11:05 Chris

Any bit of money that you get comes with, UM comes with a lot of strings as either governmental. Like a lot of a lot of nonprofits are really, you know, pseudo governmental projects or from a large a large foundation that's donating money. So you're constantly changing who you are to keep your funding.

00:11:16 Andy


00:11:25 Chris

And what they realized was, well, that you know Dave had a background in venture capital, and so they went and started companies what they like to say is they were A cause in search of a.

00:11:38 Chris

And the first one they started was rebel drinks, which if you're ever in homed or not Whole Foods, is is one of the most popular drinks at Whole Foods and around the many other retailers. But it's one of the fastest growing natural drink companies in the history of the US there.

00:11:58 Chris

The sole financial partner of velocity. One of the big innovators in the corporate relocation space. And if you're ever in like say, Amsterdam or they just opened up in The Hague.

00:12:13 Chris

Dignita, which is a a brunch place that started in Amsterdam that was all about all about giving women who got out of trafficking into the red light district. Training in the hospitality business. And now.

00:12:32 Chris

People who go eat there don't even realize it until unless they read. You know the back of the menu because it's the top one of the top rated brunch places in all of Amsterdam.

00:12:41 Chris

And so you know, we like to say we we can't do good until we do well. So we're building world class companies.

00:12:49 Chris

All built with social justice built into them at the scale of capitalism because it's a powerful tool and that's kind of why we went into.

00:12:58 Chris

You know, we decided with AI that that was so important for us because AI is a is a amazing critical tool for the future.

00:13:09 Chris

And when you know, particularly in the age of COVID, with all of us behind computer screens and not travel.

00:13:16 Chris

The tactics of abuse changed and a lot more was happening online. A huge spike in. See Sam and the reason we say see Sam and that child *********** is that child *********** implies consent and there is none in that situation and so it's child sexual abuse. So that's why we say see Sam.

00:13:37 Chris

But as with COVID, what we're seeing is that is a shift of people paying for shows online, or and then they record it, and then they share the image.

00:13:47 Chris

And that's a critical. So this is a critical new front. Not even new, but a critical growing front in fighting human trafficking.

00:13:57 Chris

And so AI is the best tool to do that. And my background is I I was in the marketing technology side.

00:14:06 Chris

Things I I was with some of the largest ad agencies in the world over the last 20 years.

00:14:12 Chris

And really was on the other side of it. I was, you know, one of the first customers of Facebook and one of the first customers of Google and constantly evolving my marketing tactics to, you know, sell one more garbage bag or one more motorcycle to a middle aged man and and you know, established.

00:14:33 Chris

Data analytics practices to to learn how to do that better and you know eventually that evolved into you. Know AI projects and and what I realized was I could do I mean that that was a a good career, but I could take those skills.

00:14:50 Chris

And really make it impact and so that's why I came on board to lead this new joint venture. And so it's a. It's an exciting time for me because.

00:15:02 Chris

Uh, I feel like a lot of my like history has been able to kind of come in here and I have the skills that can really help make a difference and so that's why we're doing kruna

00:15:16 Frank

Wow, I mean that's there's so much to unpack in there in terms of the AI and kind of the social good.

00:15:25 Frank


00:15:27 Frank

The detection of this, but the first thing that comes to mind is...

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