Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The good guys and their gadgets

 Guest blog from Sorted editor Steve Legg

We all know men love gadgets and technology. Whether it’s mobile phones, gaming devices, music systems, sports gear, cars or other electronic equipment, we share a special relationship with gadgets.

We often use gadgets to impress each other with the tiniest video camera, the most expensive, function-laden watch, or the fastest computer. Arm wrestling, bike racing and drinking competitions are no longer the main ways of proving our masculinity; it's these gadgets that do the trick these days. They’re the new way to show off wealth, taste and knowledge. We just can’t help it, it’s in our genes.

I inherited it straight from my dad, who had every conceivable gadget, although he didn’t always get it right. Classic gadget disasters back in the ’70s included a Sony Betamax video and later a Laserdisc player. Don’t tell anyone, but years later I bought an Amstrad E-m@iler. How embarrassing.

Anyway, I digress. Back in the here and now, a team of Dutch lads known as Terre des Hommes Netherlands are using their technological gifts and knowhow to make a real difference; not with faster, stronger or smaller gizmos, but to rescue vulnerable children across the world. It’s gadgetry at its best.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands chose to do something about a rapidly spreading form of high-tech child exploitation that has tens of thousands of victims in the Philippines alone involved: webcam child sex tourism.

Predators from around the world have, until now, felt safe and anonymous. Using fake names and paying with untraceable prepaid credit cards, men from rich countries go online to look for children in developing countries and then pay these children to perform sexual acts in front of webcams. It’s the darkest side of men and their gadgets.

However, the Netherlands-based child rights organisation is using technology to shine light into this darkness. It has gone undercover to expose this growing group of sexual predators.

With innovative, cutting-edge technology that would make any gadget geek weep, the virtual character Sweetie was created. This computer model was made piece by piece to look and sound like a real girl. They captured the movements of a real person, applied them to her and used an application to control her every move.

Within weeks of going online, more than 20,000 predators from around the world had approached the virtual ten-year-old requesting webcam sex performances. But this time their supposed anonymity couldn’t protect them.

With the help of this virtual ten-year-old Filipino girl, researchers identified more than 1,000 adults in 65 countries. The video footage of the child predators has been handed over to police authorities around the world.

I love it. I love a good news story about the internet and hearing that the good guys have gained an advantage. And I love to hear that men are taking a stand against sexual exploitation and using their ‘toys’ to protect children whose childhoods have been taken away. 

Read more from Steve in Sorted magazine - click here to buy your copy (or copies) today.

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