Save Sweetie Now strives to prevent the online exploitation of children, to protect and remove children from exploitative situations and to ensure that they develop in a secure, healthy and supportive environment
A world free of child exploitation
Save Sweetie Now is co-founded by the international children’s rights organisation Terre des Hommes, based in The Hague, the Netherlands, and some British professionals motivated by the work of Terre des Hommes so far. The very successful “Sweetie Project” (2013) in which researchers adopted the guise of a 10-year old Philippine girl and with the aid of a digital image (or avatar) managed to identify 1,000 predators seeking live sex shows from children, generated much interest worldwide for the work of this NGO and sparked an ongoing debate on how best to protect children (in this case in the Philippines) from the online predators of this internet age.
Save Sweetie Now is committed to effecting change to make the internet a safer place and to protect children from online sexual abuse. These crimes know no borders. By including the UK in our remit we hope to build on the success of the Sweetie Project by developing the campaign further (Sweetie 2.0) and by sharing our expertise in this area with law enforcement agencies and leading NGOs.
Save Sweetie Now will engage in fundraising activities in the UK to support both our research and our vital services for victims of online child sex abuse in South East Asia in general and specifically in the Philippines where thousands of children have been exposed to what is known there as “cyber sex”, in many cases forced to do so by their parents.
How it Began:
In 2013, based on observations and reports from partner organisations in the Philippines,Terre des Hommes in The Netherlands initiated the ‘Sweetie’ project with the dual intention of drawing attention to the online sexual exploitation of children and of demonstrating that the identification of potential child abusers is relatively simple. By using computer animation technology, a virtual 10-year old Philippine girl (“Sweetie”) was created which allowed researchers to identify one thousand pedophiles from no less than 71 countries within ten weeks. These finding indicate that this relatively new phenomenon has become a worldwide problem in a short space of time and is starting to reach epidemic proportions. In November 2013 the files containing the results of the research were handed over to EUROPOL/Interpol and the findings were presented at an international press conference, making ‘Sweetie’ an international story for months. As a direct consequence of this an estimated 1 billion people have been alerted to this form of child sexual exploitation, a number of arrests and convictions have taken place in countries such as Australia, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK, children have been rescued from cybersex ‘dens’ and national legislation in some countries has been amended.
Though originally regarded by some as unorthodox and controversial, this new, proactive approach by Terre des Hommes has been appreciated by many and is opening new opportunities for cooperation between agencies in order to prevent children falling victim to these 21st century cyber crimes.
In the UK concerns over online child sexual abuse are growing. The practice of live-streaming child sexual abuse is regarded as a top priority by the National Crime Agency and its dedicated unit Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOPS). At an international conference of the Global Alliance against Child Sex Abuse Online held in Washington at the end of September 2014, justice ministers from over 50 countries pledged to wage an international fight against the online sexual abuse of children and to eradicate such sexual exploitation. They made a special reference to the live streaming of child sexual abuse and committed themselves to identifying and prosecuting offenders. The conference was followed-up by prime minister David Cameron who organized a summit in December 2014 in London of the European ministers and heads of states on how to tackle this issue in the EU context. Internet giants such as Google and Facebook have been put under pressure by the UK Government to block access to child pornography and not a week goes by without some press coverage of online child sexual abuse cases. This has led to the decision by Terre des Hommes to expand their activities to the UK and to follow-up on the attention generated by the Sweetie Project.