Terre des hommes

Terre Des Hommes: Digital Rendering of Young Girl Catches Internet Predator

It’s been three years since the cancellation of NBC’s To Catch A Predator, a reality TV-style documentary series that followed an anti-crime organization called Perverted Justice. Each episode featured members of the organization using the anonymity of internet chat rooms to fish out out predators who sought to use them to meet and exploit minors. Upon the predators’ arrival at the rendezvous point, the show’s host, Chris Hansen, would reveal himself and sharply question the predators about their intentions shortly before law enforcement officials surrounding the areas would close in on the predators and arrest them.

Terre Des Hommes Creation

Without a doubt, the show accomplished its goals of bringing these predators to justice and unveiling them as ordinary-looking men whom the typical viewer would not guess to be such an individual. But, as the show pointed out, there are still many predators out there, stalking through popular social media sites and chatrooms in search of their next victim. The accessibility of the internet and resources available through it have caught the interest of child prostitution rings in poorer nations, which have taken to using webcams, chat rooms, and online payment services to allow wealthy predators from richer nations to abuse children via webcam.

In response, an anti-crime organization called Terre des Hommes (French for “Men’s Earth”), which is based out of the Netherlands, has created a prototype program that allows law enforcement to bait and catch these predators in a manner similar to that of Perverted Justice. Instead of using an of-age actress to talk to them, however, this program features a realistic render of a young girl, complete with a built-in voice, whose movements were captured via motion sensors (much like the sensors used for motion capture in video games and computer animated film) and then controlled by Terre des Hommes agents while active on webcam. In this fashion, the agents can pose as this young girl—whose name is “Sweetie”–and bait predators whose suspicions may be aroused by chat accompanied by voice and a few generic photos but no moving image. Then, while a given agent is controlling Sweetie, he or she can chat up the predator with whom he or she is chatting and obtain valuable information that the organization will use to track down the predator—information such as a name, a location, and an identifying photo.

Sweetie Catching Predators Worldwide

Thus far, Sweetie has been instrumental in the identifying, arresting, and sentencing of 1,000 predators worldwide. Previously, there were only 6 cases in which the predator was convicted of international child exploitation on record. And while those numbers mean that the program is indeed succeeding in bringing these abusers to justice, there are still hundreds of thousands of predators who have yet to be identified, let alone arrested. Since Terre des Hommes has implemented Sweetie in its international sting operations, the organization has noted how quickly predators respond to the idea of chatting inappropriately with a young girl and how many do in fact engage the character within a given block of time. In Sweetie’s unveiling video (which is available to view via the organization’s website and YouTube account), Terre des Hommes states that it is normal for anywhere between ten and one hundred predators to invite Sweetie to chat with them within a single hour.

But the organization remains optimistic. Where there were only 6 convictions before, there now are 1,000—and growing. And, as was the case with many predators seen in later episodes of To Catch A Predator, knowledge of the program could dissuade some predators from engaging in chat with young users all together. It is too early to tell yet, but this huge leap in law enforcement technology might just mean a huge leap in the number of predators jailed for their crimes.

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