Paedophile hunting and ‘Sweetie’: the case for luring potential criminals?

We need to think harder about how we target perpetrators

Share
Related Topics

The very mention of the word paedophile serves as a warrant for the expression of moral outrage in the most twisted and unrestrained form.

It incites neighbours to turn into a lynch mob that feels empowered to mete out the most barbaric forms of punishment. Last week we heard of the brutal murder of a totally innocent man by members of his community. Bijan Ebrahimi was not merely killed, but in a gesture reminiscent of medieval witch-hunts, his body was burned. Now we hear that a Dutch Charity, Terre des Hommes, has created a computer generated image of a 10 year old girl called Sweetie, as bait to encourage paedophiles to get visit a her ‘chatroom’.

I take a look at the picture of this allegedly 10 year-old Filipina girl and I ask myself ‘who is more sick, the promoters of this initiative or the men they stimulate to enter their fantasy world’? I ask myself, ‘what possesses them to look at the world from the perspective of a child predator’? Others praise this form of vigilante action as a form of heroic behaviour. One journalist praised them on the grounds that ‘more than 20,000 perverts were lured out when an anti-abuse group created a computer-generated ten-year-old Filipina girl called Sweetie to visit chatrooms’.

The director of this crusade, Hans Guyt, has argued for a more robust campaign to nail the perverts. ‘If we don’t intervene soon, this sinister phenomenon will totally run out of control’ he stated. But of course, what is totally out of control is Western society’s compulsive fascination with the threat of paedophilia. Is it not enough that there are actually some predators that have actually committed a real crime? In any other domain of social experience incitement to an act that is considered to be a crime would be itself considered a criminal offence. But apparently not if it flushes out the would-be-paedophile.

It is worth pointing out to Guyt and his fellow witch-hunters that it is far from evident what they have achieved by luring 20,000 ‘perverts’ into their chat room.  At the most it indicates that amongst the hundreds of millions of internet users, there is a small group of sick, screwed up and potentially predatory individuals. That is of course bad news. But what is even more disturbing is that their behaviour has encouraged others to pretend to be like them. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I wonder if some of these paedo-hunters retain the capacity to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Guyt and his colleagues believe that it is okay to pretend what they are not on the internet. Has it occurred to them that their audience might be complicit in playing the same game?

Internet sting operations such as this are likely to court injustices that can lead to tragedies. Recently a man committed suicide after a British based group of vigilantes accused him of being a paedophile and grooming a child on the internet. The online group Letzgo Hunting believes that it is providing a public service. Tragically what it does is to feed its own moral confusions.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map