This virtual 10-year-old-girl just outed 1,000 sexual predators

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  11 November 2013
This virtual 10-year-old-girl just outed 1,000 sexual predators

Rob Note: On a personal note I am VERY glad that our toolsets can be used to shine a light on these monsters.

Quote:
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A Dutch organization called Terre des Hommes has identified some 1,000 alleged child-sex predators by luring them in with a computer-animated prepubescent Philippine girl on Internet chat rooms. The online victimization of children, it would appear, is far worse than imagined.

The virtual girl, named Sweetie, was created by TDH Netherlands to notify the public and police organizations about how frequently children in developing countries are being victimized online.

http://io9.com/this-virtual-10-year...al-p-1458709761
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Last edited by RobertoOrtiz : 11 November 2013 at 05:11 PM.
 
  11 November 2013
This came up at work yesterday, and I will repeat here what I said then: while I obviously agree that individuals who prey on children are despicable, I have to play the Devil's Advocate here and point out that approaching a digital character is not illegal, nor should it be - there was no victim in this crime because the victim was fictitious. It sets a dangerous legal precedent.
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  11 November 2013
Interesting take on it. Isn't deception part of how stings work? Sex between consenting adults is not illegal, but there's been stings with an adult cop posing as a minor.
 
  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by TimothyElliot: Interesting take on it. Isn't deception part of how stings work? Sex between consenting adults is not illegal, but there's been stings with an adult cop posing as a minor.


Sure but the type of deception certainly should matter. Let's replace sexual intentions with killing or physical assault. If I was to attack a person physically or attempt to. Then yes even though they may not be who I thought I've still done something criminal. But if I was to attack a virtual avatar? Well that's almost every video game that exists.soon as someone can be prosecuted for actions taken on a virtual avatar then you make for a very awkward grey area in the video game industry.
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  11 November 2013
Here in the UK, a poor guy got dragged from his home and set on fire by a mob who thought he was a paedophile. He wasn't and he is now dead. Quite a sobering thought that he was judged and then executed by those with no right to do so.

Whilst I have no doubt that those guys who accessed that fake webcam site have ill intentions, the peado paranoia has been whipped up out of control. A calm head is needed and reminder that folk are innocent until proven guilty. This Dutch organisation may be doing more harm than good with there vigilante style tactics.

This exposure may have driven abusers underground and sent out a message to others that they should shield up more thoroughly - not very good if you are a law enforcement agency looking to exploit weakness.

I personally believe these guys did this for reasons that benefited them rather than abused children.

Edit - I would also like to add that a donation that would lift these children and their families out of poverty would probably serve them better. It's a shame that Dutch company didn't use their excellent artistic expertise to attract awareness and donations.
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Last edited by grrinc : 11 November 2013 at 07:08 PM.
 
  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by TimothyElliot: Interesting take on it. Isn't deception part of how stings work? Sex between consenting adults is not illegal, but there's been stings with an adult cop posing as a minor.


Correct, a public example being the show, "To Catch a Predator". If the argument is used that the cop isn't an under age girl but obviously an adult, therefore no crime can be committed...it would be the same for this virtual under age girl. Same with drug busts done with the use of no actual drugs. They can be charged for, "attempt to illicit a minor" or something similar.
 
  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by grrinc: Here in the UK, a poor guy got dragged from his home and set on fire by a mob who thought he was a paedophile. He wasn't and he is now dead. Quite a sobering thought that he was judged and then executed by those with no right to do so.

Whilst I have no doubt that those guys who accessed that fake webcam site have ill intentions, the peado paranoia has been whipped up out of control. A calm head is needed and reminder that folk are innocent until proven guilty. This Dutch organisation may be doing more harm than good with there vigilante style tactics.

This exposure may have driven abusers underground and sent out a message to others that they should shield up more thoroughly - not very good if you are a law enforcement agency looking to exploit weakness.

I personally believe these guys did this for reasons that benefited them rather than abused children.

Edit - I would also like to add that a donation that would lift these children and their families out of poverty would probably serve them better. It's a shame that Dutch company didn't use their excellent artistic expertise to attract awareness and donations.


I totally agree with you.

I think it's time they re-screened that episode of Brasseye.
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  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by leigh: This came up at work yesterday, and I will repeat here what I said then: while I obviously agree that individuals who prey on children are despicable, I have to play the Devil's Advocate here and point out that approaching a digital character is not illegal, nor should it be - there was no victim in this crime because the victim was fictitious. It sets a dangerous legal precedent.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a cop or a lawyer. I'm just related to a heap of them and the following is my understanding of the situation.

AFAIK, this is not really entrapment. The virtual girl isn't asking these guys to commit a crime. "She" is there as bait. These guys don't know that this girl doesn't exist. They think that she's real. They're approaching her, which a reasonable and sane person wouldn't do.

You're right in saying that there's no victim. However, there might as well have been had this been a real little girl. Kids sometimes wander into dark corners of the internet. The objective is to nab these guys before it turns sour.

This is likely also why they're keeping these guys on webcam for as long as possible. These guys are incriminating themselves by either exposing themselves on video or through their disgusting words. The cops are keeping them on the hook to establish intent.

Cops bust people trying to hire cops posing as hitmen. They bust hookers or drug dealers looking to solicit to undercover cops. They bust people intent on committing terror acts by posing as supposed contacts or bomb makers. This situation is no different than any of that.

The perps are out to commit or solicit a crime. They don't know that they're actually talking to cops. These little girls are, essentially, virtual undercover agents. That's it. The personae assumed by cops in other situations are no less fictional.
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Last edited by cookepuss : 11 November 2013 at 07:43 PM.
 
  11 November 2013
But I'm not saying it's entrapment. I'm pointing out that it's not illegal to engage in sexual activity with a digital character, regardless of that character's age. My point being that with new technology like this, the law needs to evolve very carefully to adapt to it.

This could lead to highly dubious precedents - for example, it opens a huge can of works when it comes to online gaming, because those involve digital characters too. Because it's the digital nature of the character which is key here.
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  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by LucentDreams: Sure but the type of deception certainly should matter. Let's replace sexual intentions with killing or physical assault. If I was to attack a person physically or attempt to. Then yes even though they may not be who I thought I've still done something criminal. But if I was to attack a virtual avatar? Well that's almost every video game that exists.soon as someone can be prosecuted for actions taken on a virtual avatar then you make for a very awkward grey area in the video game industry.


If someone thinks they're playing a video game, I'm sure they could claim entrapment.

But if they're actually trying to murder someone when they pressed a button, even if it turns out of be a virtual avatar, then I think it's a different level of moral responsibility.
 
  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by leigh: I'm pointing out that it's not illegal to engage in sexual activity with a digital character, regardless of that character's age.


But it is illegal in many places to try to solicit or groom children on the internet. It wouldn't matter if they were real or not, just that the defendant thought that they were.

Originally Posted by cookepuss: These guys don't know that this girl doesn't exist. They think that she's real.


But in territories where the law regards a person as innocent until proven guilty I am guesing that this would be a main point of defence. It would be up to the prosecution to prove that these people did in fact believe they were talking to a real person.

From a CG perspective, who thinks that the avatar was convicingly real? I'm assuming that it also involved computer-generated chat?
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  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by LucentDreams: But if I was to attack a virtual avatar? Well that's almost every video game that exists.


I'll admit I don't have complete knowledge of the law here, but my understanding is this:
  • If I'm playing GTA and I buy drugs within the context of the game: there's nothing illegal about that since I'm fully aware none of it is real.
  • If I approach an undercover cop posing as a dealer and attempt to buy drugs from him: even if the drugs in question don't actually exist, I'll still face legal repercussions for my real-world intention to buy them (I think the charge would be "conspiring to obtain," or something along those lines).
Am I wrong in thinking this "Sweetie sting" is closer to the latter than the former? Whether the illusion is an undercover cop or convincing CGI, either way the offenders are acting under the impression it's real, unlike a video game which is understood to be fiction.

I'm not sure whether or not those revealed by this sting should be prosecuted, but the article just says their information (which they voluntarily provided) has been given to Interpol, and I don't have a problem with that.
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  11 November 2013
Originally Posted by Ordibble-Plop: But it is illegal in many places to try to solicit or groom children on the internet. It wouldn't matter if they were real or not, just that the defendant thought that they were.


I understand that, but that's not my point. This is new technology. Baiting someone with a human is one thing, but baiting with a digital character is something totally new, and my point is that the law needs to evolve carefully to adapt to this, because it could easily become problematic.
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  11 November 2013
Quote: but baiting with a digital character is something totally new


I agree in the sense that the new technology needs to be evaluated on the level of evidence it represents. I can see there being a difference between how incriminating evidence is when it's just text, versus video of a real person versus a physical meeting. The virtual bait should fall in somewhere between text only and video.
 
  11 November 2013
It is worth pointing out that Terre des Hommes are not a law enforcement agency - they have no legal authority to undertake this task and it could of overstepped and sabotaged any legitimate legal investigations. One could argue that this aspect of their campaign is a more sophisticated version of the UK vigilante group 'lets go hunting'.

They also broadcast their activity and intentions straight away thus giving any 'perpertrators' a great deal of time to clear away any evidence and get legal advise - which will definitely be to stay silent.

I totally support their intentions and wish they had a better donations facility. But I think this is just a PR exercise that may very well backfire.

Also, are they now in the possession of illegal imagery themselves?
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