Virtual girl dubbed 'Sweetie' snares thousands of would-be sex predators

08.11.2013 21:48

Thousands of would-be predators
asked a girl to perform sex acts online
unaware that she was actually a
computer-generated digital decoy
named "Sweetie" created by a charity.
In little more than two months, more
than 1,000 people were identified by
children's rights group Terre des
Hommes after they offered money to
the fake profile for a variety of sex
acts. They included 254 Americans.
Overall, almost 20,000 people made
approaches to the virtual girl -- who
was modeled on a 10-year-old -- but
the charity was unable to track them
all down.
“The child predators doing this now
feel that the law doesn’t apply to
them,” said Hans Guyt, director of
campaigns at Terre des Hommes
Netherlands. “The Internet is free, but
not lawless."
He added that real children were often
forced into remote commercial child
sexual exploitation -- or "webcam child
sex tourism" -- by adults or extreme
“Sometimes they have to testify against
their own family, which is almost an
impossible thing to do for a child,”
Guyt added. "Once a child has become
a victim of sexual abuse, rehabilitation
can take many years. It is along,
painful, and labor-intensive process
for children to overcome the trauma."
Using methods similar to Dateline
NBC's " To Catch a Predator," the
researchers worked from a building in
Amsterdam during the summer.
“Sweetie” was placed in public Internet
chat rooms and the charity's
investigators waited for her to be
"Sweetie" was deluged with requests
for sexual webcam performances and
while the would-be predators
interacted with the virtual girl,
researchers gathered information
about their identities.
Terre des Hommes
An example of a chat room where an
would-be predator approached a di
decoy called "Sweetie."
The details of the 999 men and one
woman that they managed to identify
have now been passed on Interpol.
However, police will only be able to
prosecute suspects if they gather their
own evidence.
“The United Nations has established
laws that make this child abuse nearly
universally illegal,” Guyt said. “The
biggest problem is that the police don’t
take action until child victims file
reports, but children almost never
report these crimes. We want
governments to adopt pro-active
investigation policies that give law
enforcement agencies the mandate to
actively patrol public Internet hot
spots where this child abuse is taking
place every day.”
An Interpol spokesperson said the
agency was aware of the investigation
and that Dutch authorities would
provide the charity's evidence after
conducting their own assessment.