SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian man caught in a global sting which used a virtual girl called Sweetie to trap child sex predators has become the first person convicted from the operation, the rights group behind it said Wednesday.
Dutch rights groups Terre des Hommes said in November last year it had used a computer-generated Filipina girl – dubbed “Sweetie” – in Internet chat rooms to ensnare paedophiles.
Over a 10-week period more than 20,000 predators from 71 countries approached the virtual 10-year-old asking for webcam sex performances and more than 1,000 paedophiles had been identified as a result, it said at the time.
The group has said that several offenders have since been arrested after the information was passed onto police, including in Australia, Poland and the United States.
The Australian is the first person to be convicted in the online sting, Terre des Hommes’ Jakarta-based Leny Kling told AFP.
“And we hope that more will follow,” she said.
Court officials said 38-year-old Scott Robert Hansen had been sentenced on three charges, including using a carriage service to transmit indecent communications to a person aged under 16, and possessing child exploitation material on Tuesday.
He was also charged with failing to comply with a sex offenders order.
“He was given a two-year sentence,” a court spokeswoman told AFP, adding it was suspended given the 260 days he had already been held in custody.
Australian Federal Police are understood to have searched Hansen’s home following a web chat with “Sweetie” in which he was naked and masturbated, news.com.au reported.
Terre des Hommes has said they did not approach anyone on the Internet but instead waited for people to approach Sweetie and ask for sex acts.
The rights group also stopped the conversation as soon as someone offered Sweetie money for sex acts.
“Sweetie attracted a lot of paedophiles,” said Kling, adding that comments the virtual girl attracted included ‘Can you undress yourself?’ and ‘Can you show your b**bs to me?’.
Kling said the group wanted to raise the alarm about webcam child sex tourism, a form of child exploitation that has tens of thousands of victims in the Philippines alone.
The problem is also present in Cambodia and Thailand, she said.
“We are just trying to prove with Sweetie that this is an iceberg problem,” she said, adding that the large number of people caught in the sting in a short time indicated the scale of the exploitation of children.
“It’s up to the FBI, up to Interpol, up to the Australian police force to take action.”
When the sting was revealed in 2013, Terres de Hommes said its researchers found the experience shocking.
“To put yourself in the shoes of a 10-year-old Filipina girl and seeing what some men want from you has been a shocking experience for them,” said its head of campaigns Hans Guyt.
“Some demands and acts were really obscene.”