“Pedophiles Lured by Avatar in Tech Industry Porn Fight” by Kristen Schweizer

Technology has enabled predators to have access to children all across the globe. Kristen Schweizer describes several new methods that law enforcement have employed to combat the abuse and exploitation that is taking place on and offline. This is an excerpt from a recent article published by Bloomberg. The source of this excerpt is http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-15/pedophiles-lured-by-avatar-in-tech-industry-porn-fight.html

Source: Terre des Hommes Netherlands via Bloomberg

Source: Terre des Hommes Netherlands via Bloomberg

Sweetie, […] just 10 years old, her user profile shows, she spends her days online fielding requests from men who offer her money to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam. When she logs on, invitations pour in — “Are you a working girl?” or “I’m into girls your age” — from strangers keen to get her into a private show via Skype or Yahoo messenger.

Unlike her peers, though, Sweetie is a computer-generated avatar created by a Dutch non-profit group seeking to unmask sexual predators on the Internet.

Some 20,000 people contacted Sweetie during the eight weeks she was online last year, while researchers in an Amsterdam warehouse used keystrokes to turn her head, make her stare attentively or reach to adjust her webcam. After luring men in with the hyper-realistic animation, the group gathered e-mails, Facebook pages and head shots, then cut off contact before Sweetie engaged in sexual acts. It then gave Interpol dossiers on 1,000 suspects in scores of countries.

[…]

‘Limitless Potential’

“There’s limitless potential for technology to help solve the problem” of child pornography, said Mick Moran, head of Interpol’s Crimes Against Children unit in Lyon, France.

Pedophiles today find each other on Internet forums, peer-to-peer networks, and hidden websites. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that some 750,000 predators are online at any given moment. Victims, often found in chatrooms and on social networks, are becoming younger and the abuse more violent.

[…]

Cottage Industry

Source: Terre des Hommes Netherlands via Bloomberg

Source: Terre des Hommes Netherlands via Bloomberg

In a rare crackdown on such abuse, authorities in the U.K., U.S. and Australia in January arrested 29 adults and identified 15 Filipino children in a case that began when recordings were found on the computer of a registered sex offender in England.

“It’s a new cottage industry,” said Hans Guyt, head of special projects at Terre des Hommes, the children’s rights group that created the Sweetie avatar with a local animation company that prefers to remain anonymous. “It’s fueled by poverty at home and predators around the world with $100 to spare to watch a child get raped,” Guyt said in a café a few blocks from Amsterdam’s notorious red light district.

Since 2002, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia, which analyzes photos flagged as potentially abusive, has reviewed 105 million child sex abuse images — including 24 million last year, said Michelle Collins, head of the exploited children’s division. Tech companies must acknowledge their services can create havens for sex predators and they should take responsibility for helping control the problem, she said.

[…]

Suzuki Samurai

“The Internet has emboldened people who earlier couldn’t knock on a neighbor’s door and say ‘Hey, I like child abuse material,” said Cole. “We know where they are posting and where they congregate and we get involved when there is not IP address or e-mail. We show up when more traditional investigative methods don’t work.”

Source: Terre des Hommes Netherlands via Bloomberg

Source: Terre des Hommes Netherlands via Bloomberg

Among the images the Danes discovered was one of a toddler being abused on a bathroom counter. Using Photoshop to sharpen a blurry prescription bottle in the background, Cole found a name and the logo of the CVS Pharmacy chain. Another photo of a car interior was sent to contacts in Detroit who determined it was a 1998 Suzuki Samurai. A picture with a close-up of the suspect’s hand yielded a fingerprint.

This is a significantly shortened excerpt. To read the full article, please visit the Bloomberg website http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-15/pedophiles-lured-by-avatar-in-tech-industry-porn-fight.html

Kristen Schweizer is located in London, and is a journalist for http://www.bloomberg.com