Say hello to Sweetie, she's a ten year old girl from the Philippines but not your typical child. Sweetie is 100 per cent computer generated and her job is to attract paedophiles and help Terr des Hommes, a Dutch organisation, put a stop to webcam child sex tourism.
Sweetie was especially designed to look like an average Filipino girl. The reason for her chosen nationality, was because it's thought that there are tens of thousands of children being exploited in the Philippines alone. Eastern Asia is one of the worst parts of the world for this sort of crime, since it features the perfect storm of an already established child sex trade, big problems with poverty and a sudden increased uptake in digital technology that facilitates the exploitation. The perpetrators are often from more developed countries, willing to pay tens of dollars to see what they need to get off.
Here's how it works. Sweetie's handler at Terr des Hommes connects to a public chat room and announces themselves as a 10 year old girl. The messages and offers for chat from large numbers of people pour in and private conversations begin. Those that request to webcam with Sweetie are allowed to do so, as long as they do the same.
Sweetie then begins to interact with the perpetrators via a set of pre-programmed animations, that are selected by the operator and are disturbingly lifelike – especially through a small web cam image. They also take payment from the paedophiles in return for performing certain acts on Sweetie's virtual webcam. The perpetrators are then kept busy as they often pleasure themselves and information is extracted that lets Terr des Hommes track them down.
It's stressed in the explanation video that no hacking is involved and it only uses information gleaned from the paedophiles themselves to look them up on social networks and other sites. These names, information, video and conversation logs are then handed over to Interpol. To date the group has tracked down and handed over data on over 1,000 individuals.[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGmKmVvCzkw']
On top of this simple honey-pot trap though, Terr des Hommes wants to go further and extend this sort of “active policing,” to law enforcement agencies around the world. As it says in the above video, if it can pinpoint over 1,000 paedophiles in just two months, think how many the authorities could crack down on.
To convince governments to adopt this strategy, Terr des Hommes is asking supporters to sign this petition, hoping that with everyone's help it will be able to massively inhibit and potentially even stamp out webcam child sex tourism – at least the most overt kind that hunt through dating sites and social networks.
KitGuru Says: While this seems like a pretty smart idea, can anyone more knowledgeable on the law let me know if you can convict someone for committing virtual child exploitation, or will these reports just mean the authorities can keep a closer eye on these guys?