Sweetie, the virtual girl who hunts cyber pedophiles, wants to collaborate with the Police

Terre des Hommes (Land of Men) is the Dutch NGO that in late 2013 created Sweetie, a computer program aimed at finding pedophiles on the Internet and to report the growing threat of child sex tourism through the Internet.

In just 10 weeks since its launch, 20,000 stalkers contacted this 10-year-old virtual Filipino girl. From that figure, and thanks to the information they provided while chatting with Sweetie, the Dutch organization located and identified about 1,000 pedophiles from 71 countries, and then provided all the data collected to Interpol.

Sweetie, la niña virtual que caza a pedófilos cibernéticos

Thanks to this virtual girl, with advanced animation techniques able to capture the movements and voice of a person of flesh and blood, the Australian Scott Robert Hansen was sentenced to one year in prison for sending obscene photographs and possession of child pornography.

Recently, Sweetie has been endowed with Artificial Intelligence, thanks to the grant that the NGO has received from the Dutch lottery agency, so instead of operators, bots are responsible for the chat.

Now Sweetie 2.0 is smarter and Terre des Hommes wants its police to officially use this tool, although its goal is for all law enforcement bodies to incorporate it and thus improve their search and detection results for cyber stalkers.

How to protect minors on the Internet

In the first place, it is fundamental to educate and inform children and adolescents about the existence of this type of threat on the Internet.

One of the techniques that most cyber stalkers are currently exploiting is known as Grooming. In order to make contact with minors on the Internet, usually through social networks, the pedophiles pass themselves off as a minor and, after establishing a trusting relationship with them, they engage in sexual blackmail. On many occasions, the adult resorts to false promises of gifts to dazzle the child.

To emphasize that they do not accept people they do not know or who have never physically seen in their social networks is of vital importance.

According to a study conducted by Internet Safety 101, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of children and families on the Internet, in more than 80% of sexual cybercrimes against minors, the harassers used the victims’ social networks to get information about their tastes and interests; and 65% of the stalkers used these platforms to locate the home and school of the victims.

In addition to having correctly configured the privacy options of their social networks and to not contacting with strangers through them, minors should know that sending personal photographs by instant messaging systems or uploading them to their social networks can put their intimacy and privacy at risk, since from the moment they share an image through one of these channels, they lose control over it.