The Hague - A Dutch rights group said on Monday it had identified over 1 000 paedophiles around the world by offering online sex with a computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina girl called Sweetie.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands has now handed over to police the identities of over 1 000 adults who were willing to pay children in developing countries for online sex, it said.
“They were ready to pay Sweetie for sexual acts in front of her webcam,” the rights group's head Albert Jaap van Santbrink told journalists in The Hague.
The group said it wanted to raise the alarm about a largely unknown but quickly spreading new form of child exploitation that has tens of thousands of victims in the Philippines alone, known as webcam child sex tourism.
Sweetie was created by the child rights group and deployed in Internet chat rooms from a remote building in Amsterdam.
Within a 10-week period, over 20 000 predators approached Sweetie, asking for webcam sex performances. While they were chatting with the “girl”, researchers gathered information about her customers through social media.
Using this information, researchers identified the abusers and passed the information on to police.
“The biggest problem is that the police don't take action until child victims file reports, but children almost never report these crimes,” said head of campaigns Hans Guyt.
The rights group wants police around the world to have a mandate to actively patrol chat rooms where the abuse is taking place.
“The child predators doing this now feel that the law doesn't apply to them. The Internet is free, but not lawless,” said Guyt.
According to the UN and the FBI, there are over 750 000 child predators online at any given moment, Terre des Hommes said, also announcing an online petition to pressure governments to adopt proactive investigation policies.
Yet only six people have been convicted of engaging in webcam child sex tourism in the world, the rights group said.
“It would have been easy with greater resources to identify 10 000 people,” Guyt said. - Sapa-AFP