"Sweetie" is a digital decoy designed to trick perverts into thinking they're having webcam sessions with a real live 10-year-old Filipina. In just two months, researchers were able to identify 1,000 people who offered money to the fake profile in exchange for sex acts.
According to the Netherlands-based children's rights group Terre des Hommes, who developed Sweetie, the decoy was approached by nearly 20,000 people, but they weren't able to track them all down.
The group, which uses similar methods as those seen on To Catch a Predator, operates Sweetie from a building in Amsterdam, even though would-be predators believe they're speaking with a young girl in the Philippines. The operation is Terre des Hommes's effort to combat "webcam child sex tourism," a growing problem in impoverished areas in which kids are forced into remote commercial sexual exploitation.
The details of the 1,000 people—254 of whom are Americans—were handed over to Interpol. However, even though the United Nations has policies that make child abuse illegal, police don't really do anything unless a child victim has filed a report.
"[B]ut children almost never report these crimes," said Hans Guyt, director of campaigns at Terre des Hommes Netherlands. "We want governments to adopt pro-active investigation policies that give law enforcement agencies the mandate to actively patrol public Internet hot spots where this child abuse is taking place every day."
In the meantime, the organization is asking people to sign a petition for a global crackdown on webcam predators.