The computer-generated “Sweetie” helped campaigners identify 1,000 suspected sexual predators. (AFP: Terre des Hommes Netherlands)
At least 46 Australians are among 1,000 people identified by a Dutch rights organization who use a computer-generated 10-year-old Filipino girl to target child sexual abuse online.
International children’s rights group Terre des Hommes got in line with the realistic and digitally animated character named Sweetie and was inundated with potential predators from 71 different countries.
The largest number of named suspects came from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.
Sweetie’s video chat partners thought they were talking to a Filipino miner, but they were actually communicating with a team at a warehouse in the Dutch capital Amsterdam.
The team was recording everything and looking for clues to their identities, which were then handed over to Interpol.
Presumed predators by country:
“In 10 weeks, we tracked 1,000 men from all over the world who were willing to pay Sweetie to perform webcam sex,” said Terre des Homes Dutch director Albert Jaap van Santbrink.
“Our worst case scenario is that the same will happen with this phenomenon and with child pornography, which is now a multibillion industry in the hands of criminal gangs.”
Terre des Hommes urged authorities to tackle the growing problem of minors being tricked into performing sexual acts in front of a webcam, and said it would provide them with the technology it had developed.
“The predator will not come forward. The victim will not come forward,” said Hans Guyt, an activist for Terre des Hommes.
“It requires a new way of controlling.”
Watch a video about Sweetie and child sex tourism on SpankBang review
He said researchers used circumstantial evidence, including Skype handles and social media profiles, to identify the suspects.
“We identified ourselves as 10-year-old Filipino girls,” Guyt said.
“We did not ask for anything unless it was offered to us.”
However, the European Union police agency Europol has expressed reservations about Terre des Hommes’ approach.
“We believe that criminal investigations using intrusive surveillance measures should be the sole responsibility of law enforcement,” Europol spokesman Soren Pedersen said.
ABC / Reuters
family and children, child abuse, sexuality, crime, international law, Netherlands