Dutch House of representatives approves "Sweetie"
Huge demand for online sex with children
According to the FBI and confirmed by the UN, some 750,000 individuals worldwide are online at any moment in time, looking to engage children in sexual activities. In response to this massive growing demand, children in countries such as the Philippines are being forced to perform sex shows in front of webcams in order to earn money for pimps, criminal gangs or even their own family members. Paying customers, maintaining this 21st century form of child sexual exploitation (usually described as Webcam Child Sex Tourism), too often get away with these crimes which leave little evidence behind and are therefore difficult to trace and prosecute.
Go online yourself
For a number of years now Terre des Hommes Netherlands has been advocating for a wider mandate of law enforcement to tackle these crimes more effectively. Undercover operations and the application of virtual characters have proven to be key elements in tracking down sexual predators and bringing them to justice.
Hans Guyt, team leader of the 'Sweetie Project'; "It's the only way to stop webcam child sex tourism effectively and efficiently. You have to be present online yourself.”
Sweetie is a virtual, ten year-old Filipina girl developed by Terre des Hommes Netherlands who succeeded, in a mere ten weeks online surveillance in 2013, in identifying 1000 individuals from 71 countries who tried to engage her in sexual activities.
With support from the Dutch Postal Code Lottery (also known as the 'People's Lottery'), the organization is presently developing Sweetie 2.0: software using robots which can simultaneously chat in different chatrooms with a large number of individuals at the same time and which will warn and deter (potential) offenders of webcam sex with children.
Although Dutch police officers have sometimes posed as minors online, the information gathered proved to be inadmissible before the courts under existing Dutch laws. The new draft legislation will correct this loophole and, due to the efforts of Terre des Hommes it will now also be possible to apply digital, virtual children in an investigation and to use that evidence in prosecuting individuals. The draft legislation is now before the Dutch senate for final approval.
Hans Guyt: "This decision of the House is more than justified, a major step forward and creates a new, essential weapon in the fight against the alarming increase in sexual abuse of children via the Internet."