1,000 alleged paedophiles identified via 10-year-old Filipina CGI girl 'Sweetie'

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

The alleged paedophile wanted 15 minutes of what he thought would be a 10-year-old naked Filipina girl giving him a sex performance in front of a webcam.

He didn't want to pay too much, though.

The "girl" - a CGI character named "Sweetie" created by researchers from the Netherlands charity Terre des Hommes - asked for $15 (£9), but the alleged predator talked her down to $10 (£6).

Making Sweetie

A sample of the conversation was reproduced in the charity's PDFwriteup of a mass paedophile sting undertaken to battle webcam sex tourism.

It took place on 26 April between a researcher, who posed as Sweetie using an application - "Sweetie1000" - that relies on cutting-edge, Hollywood-style animation, and the predator, identified as a 35-year-old father of two from Atlanta, Georgia, in the US.

The predator was only one of 1,000 identified by Terre des Hommes researchers after the alleged child abusers were caught in the act of soliciting webcam sex performances from Filipino children.

The number of alleged predators who have been identified is, in turn, only a small percentage of the 20,172 predators from 71 countries who responded to the researchers' lure, asking for webcam sex performances.

The researchers identified the suspects using information available in public online databases and data provided by predators, they said:

No computer hacking or illegal methods were applied. Instead, we just asked predators to provide identifying information under the fictional pretext - a technique known as "social hacking."

Four researchers spent a combined total of 1,600 hours over the course of 10 weeks posing as prepubescent Filipina girls in 19 public online chat rooms.

Details of the suspects' identities and activities have been submitted to Interpol.

The researchers gave these details in an FAQ to depict how the extremely convincing character of Sweetie came to life:

First, her face and body were modeled to resemble a 10-year-old Filipina girl. In that model, specific points were marked at which her joins [sic] and muscles move. Then we used motion sensors to record the exact sequence of motions that a person performs while chatting with people online - typing, smiling, frowning, looking up, down, and side to side. Those motions were captured and recorded from a human model wearing motion sensors and the motion sequences were programed into an application that controls the way Sweetie moves on command. We used a control board that had pre-programmed motions and facial expressions, so while the researchers chatted with predators, predators would see Sweetie typing while the researchers typed to ensure precise timing.

Terre des Hommes's research suggests that predators will pay between $10 and $100 per show, depending on whether transactions are made through a pimp or a middleman, how long the show lasts, and the nature of the performance.

The suspected predators will only be prosecuted if police manage to gather their own evidence.

The biggest problem in battling this type of child abuse is that police don't investigate predation until a crime is reported, the charity says.

But in the case of webcam sex tourism, victims don't usually report the crimes for a number of reasons, whether it's financial dependency or that they're trafficked slaves held captive in "dens" where they may also endure physical abuse and neglect, the charity says.

Often … children are intimidated and fearful of consequences or they and their families depend on the income generated through webcam sex performances.

How is this not entrapment?

Terre des Hommes explains:

[Avoiding entrapment] is done by using as little overt “influence” as possible and luring individuals rather than targeting them based on suspicion. Luring individuals with an opportunity to commit a specific crime is a passive method of identifying people who are already inclined to commit that crime.

For example, researchers lured individuals via chat names that suggested that they were prepubescent girls, the charity said:

The opportunity to commit a crime was presented when adults in chat rooms were faced with a supposed minor whom they had the option to respect or abuse. Individuals who contacted the supposed minor were presumed innocent until they actually committed a crime on their own volition.

Terre des Hommes regards individuals who initiate contact and request a sexual webcam show from someone claiming to be a child as predators actively attempting to abuse children.

Such individuals are, in fact, considered to be inclined or predisposed to committing the crime, the charity says.

I agree with Terre des Hommes.

Do you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Terres des Hommes is offering law enforcement agencies a toolkit that explains its method of finding and identifying online predators. It's also offering operational Sweetie1000 software and training in its use.

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30 Responses to 1,000 alleged paedophiles identified via 10-year-old Filipina CGI girl 'Sweetie'

  1. Isn't one of the difficulties of this method here that even pre-texting is now an offense in, for example, the US?

  2. Vicki · 697 days ago

    Anything that catches these bastards it great in my books and have they commited a crime by asking for their acts proberly not but it's still sick to think that grown men will ask a ten year girl to do these acts for them. Is just plain sick.

  3. I like the idea of catching child predators without putting children in harms way, but what prevents the attorneys from arguing that since this is a computer generated image and not an actual child, technically no crime was committed?

    • Jacob · 697 days ago

      I am sure it is illegal to solicit a child for such acts, and I am sure that the context of the chat would have a clear link to 'mens rea' (guilty mind, ed). So as such I would suggest a crime was commit, but hey I am no lawyer.

      If you bought fake drugs from a undercover police officer, are you still committing a crime, of course.

      • Anonymous · 691 days ago

        I believe undercover police officers use real drugs in their stings just to satisfy the legal requirements.

    • Lisa Vaas · 697 days ago

      I would assume the same legal arguments would be made to prosecute these alleged predators as are used when police pose as prostitutes to apprehend johns. The police in such cases aren't prostitutes, but the crime of soliciting sex is still considered prosecutable.

      Lawyers, details on this would be welcome.

    • NoSpin1600 · 697 days ago

      Good point. Wonder how they will prosecute someone on the basis that they intended to commit a crime.

    • Intent was there.

    • Adult investigators "pose" as children online, and predators who proposition these "children" are arrested and prosecuted. I would imagine using a computer-generated image of a child to catch a predator falls into this same category and meets the legal requirement necessary.

  4. Quite frankly, I don't care if it is entrapment. Whatever it takes to keep those sickos from harming children, I'm all for it!

    • Lisa Vaas · 697 days ago

      The problem with entrapment goes beyond the moral and into the "will this stand up in court" realm.

      • CP Professional · 697 days ago

        It won't have to if on investigation they are found to have made contact with or paid for services from REAL children.

  5. ITGuy · 697 days ago

    "But think of the children!"™

    This is the reason we have such a disproportionate percentage of our population incarcerated in the US. These people need HELP, not a jail sentence.

    • asm-wolf · 686 days ago

      I agree with this notion. If less people thought along the lines of "These people should be killed" and [insert other over the top penalty here], then these people are more likely to seek help. If we can provide more help to these people sooner, then we may be able to prevent a lot of abuse from happening - possibly before any child gets hurt - and we wont need to resort to trying to trap them.

  6. Constitutional · 697 days ago

    I'm definitely disturbed by child predators. What sane individual wouldn't be. However, I am concerned that this "luring" type of activity could fall down the proverbial "slippery slope" of constitutional abuse. For example, if one were to post supposedly classified documents online (made up documents containing no classified information, but upon inspection appear to contain valid classified information), and then I subsequently copy and post that document to wiki leaks, could I then be arrested and prosecuted for attempted espionage?

    • CP professional · 697 days ago

      The people trying to buy her services, that have now been identified because of this lure will now be investigated by Police. Their computer and financial records will be checked. If they are found to have made inappropriate contact or paid for sexual services from REAL underage girls, they will be charged with those offences. This was just a simple way of identifying them.

  7. a creeped out person · 697 days ago

    What if people begin to watch child porn video games? Where they know the children are cyber images like the one used in this sting? What then? Is it a crime? It isn't a crime for people to kill other (cyber) people in video games, so is it a crime to play child abuse games? Or is it a safe way for sick people to get their fantasies fulfilled? It's been argued again and again that violent video games don't make people kill real people in the real world, so how could it be argued that child molester games would cause child molestation? This is a very very creepy precedent. I predict that there are people working on cyber child molestation games for pedophiles as we speak.

  8. Cliff Jones · 697 days ago

    I'd like to see an example of this video, it's hard to believe you can't tell it's CG. I would think a creator of such complex software would want to show off their handiwork, but in searching I don't find any further information on the technical end of this.

      • Cliff Jones · 696 days ago

        Thanks. I was getting a <ahem> different class of result searching for videos +"sweetie." :

        It's definitely close to 'human,' the motion is convincing but there's still something unnatural about the overall appearance of it.

        I suppose the illusion is aided by a low resolution, maybe slightly out of focus web cam.

        The fact that "she" can respond in real time, especially move/act as requested, is no doubt why people believe this is a real person.

        But whatever the hook, this is excellent, I'm glad it works. Congrats to the dev team, and happy hunting!

        BTW I bet there's hundreds of people who would volunteer their time to use this system and track down these vile scum. I also bet they could crowd source this thing and get all the funding they could ever need.

  9. They need to be trapped full stop.

  10. Steve · 697 days ago

    I bet law enforcement agencies are right now struggling with the problem that these guys committed no crime. As far as I know, it's not illegal to watch a computer program get undressed.

  11. Helix · 696 days ago

    I may be being a tad stupid here, but if your wanting to catch them then perhaps advertising to the world how you did it is not such a great idea. just a thought. it strikes me as leaving your front door key under a mat, and posing about when you will be out and how you will get back in if you lose your keys.

    • Guest · 696 days ago

      I think it seems less like posting that you left keys under the mat, more like bragging you have a new scary guard dog. Though I agree that it could just make paedophiles more careful and therefore harder to identify.

      When you put a bell on a cat, to start with the birds are safer but soon the cat learns to move in such a stealthy way as to keep the birds quiet and then they are greater danger than before....

  12. Randy · 696 days ago

    Just for argument's sake, what would the legal implications be for a person who created a CGI character (such as a 40 year old male pedophile) controlled by AI software who contacted "Sweetie"?
    Do any laws cover what one CGI character says to another?

  13. Guest · 695 days ago

    I want to protect kids. I don't necessarily want hundreds of thousands more people in prison. Easy anonymous access to children is surely luring in people who would never abuse children in real life. We need more publicity about the harm they do to real kids, so that things like this don't make people less upset about pedophilia since pedophiles are satisfied watching a chat bot.

    As far as what to do with the evidence, post the videos with their IP addresses on line, without obscuring the faces (just the genitals, lol). It'll will likely do much more to discourage pedophiles than the occasional criminal conviction would. These guys don't think it will happen to them. They need to see videos of people just like themselves doing stuff just like they themselves do and saying things just like they themselves do, and getting called out in public for it.

    • Anonymous · 691 days ago

      Well, it's pedophiles like this who drive the child porno industry itself. They are the "customers" who provide the profit and therefore the incentive for producing child porn.
      Some might pay for it directly and some might get the images for "free" (ad supported) but money is indeed changing hands.
      Others are making their own child porn with local child victims and trading it with others who are making their own porn with local child victims. In the end it is the children who are suffering because of this industry.
      Maybe some of these viewers do not abuse children in real life but they support an industry that does. They are the ones who create a demand for these photos and every photo they view is a ruined little life.

  14. azul · 676 days ago

    This is ridiculous how in hell woul a CGI character deceive thousands? Has noone thought about this? its completely impossible, CGI animation is not that advanced they concocted this idiocy to hide the fact that they are using a real child

    • Anonymous · 563 days ago

      The best CGI is indistinguishable from real life. Have you watched a movie made in the last several years? Can you tell what's real and what's CGI? Are you sure?

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.