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August 26, 2003 1:06 AM   Subscribe

So what happens when people lure pedophiles giving out their pictures and info? Perverted Justice, a group effort of people chatting online pretending to be children, is slamming hundreds of would be child predators and releasing any information they can get online. They even have a rating system! Are you cringing to find out the worst ones? Read this. Now the only problem is getting their ass in court. (NSFW text)
posted by Keyser Soze (56 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Oh. My. God.

I was just about to sleep when I saw this post. I will be up all morning. While I'm no huge proponent of vigilante justice, a part of me really really digs this. It's just so unreal how realively normal looking everyday folk have no sense of right & wrong when it comes to predatory behavior. I'll need some time to digest this but thanks for the link.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:06 AM on August 26, 2003


Guess I'm on the opposite end of that, Kevin. I've never liked the idea of under cover agents posing online as young kids, at some sophomoric level it makes me want to go around posing as a 40 year old pedophile just so when I (hopefully) get busted I can just say that I was playing make-believe too. But it's 4 am here and that probably sounds a lot more disturbing than I mean it too... Anyways, the point is that the grey area between black and white here is really the entire image, instead of a line down the middle... Why is it that just because the police are allowed to pretend to be something they aren't anyone else isn't either?
posted by cohappy at 2:11 AM on August 26, 2003


Even if what they're pretending to be is sick and disgusting.
posted by cohappy at 2:14 AM on August 26, 2003


Why is it that just because the police are allowed to pretend to be something they aren't anyone else isn't either?

That's a good point. When AOL's chat rooms were all the rage, this kind of stuff seemed to go on all the time. As I go thru all the chat logs, I keep waiting for the breaking point in these people; that point at which they find out the age of who their talking to and say thanks but no thanks. I'd be interested in seeing logs from the people who were able to do that. My hope is that there were a lot of those people as well.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:24 AM on August 26, 2003


That third link, with the transcript, is fucking disturbing.

There was a recent case in the UK where the FBI handed info to the UK authorities, leading to the arrest of a trainee teacher. As there is no specific law in the UK against "grooming", the man was charged with attempting to incite another to procure a child for sex.

BTW, I should have known better, but the NSFW warning looked to me as if it only applied to the last link, whereas it is that third that really needs a warning.
posted by davehat at 2:36 AM on August 26, 2003


I discovered this site about a week ago, and while in most cases they are finding some freaky people, there are a few that bother me by their approach.

Take this one for example. Some selected lines are below:

usmc_emt: is my age a problem?
sugar_n_spicy1990: how old r u?
usmc_emt: 27
sugar_n_spicy1990: nope lol my last bf was 25
[...]
usmc_emt: well you will get anythign you want hun
sugar_n_spicy1990: what if i want more
usmc_emt: you will get it
sugar_n_spicy1990: you would fuck me? ((Might as well go for broke.))
usmc_emt: you want that?
sugar_n_spicy1990: mebbe. u?
usmc_emt: then I would ((Liftoff.))


This one, and a few like it bother me, in that the PJ "staffer" pretends to be an older-man loving girl. And brings up the subject of sex first. It just doesn't sit right.

I am somewhat undecided about the whole thing really. In many ways the site just doesn't feel right. In other ways I suppose it's kind of fair enough.

It's disturbing, I'll grant you that however.
posted by sycophant at 2:44 AM on August 26, 2003


What sycophant said.

For a slightly different approach to chatting with perverts, see also this.
posted by Ljubljana at 3:03 AM on August 26, 2003


Of course the issue boils down to "Can they cock-tease and get away with it?" What bothers me is that those who get nice and riled up but don't fall for the trap just take their sexual problems out into the real world in a nice panel truck near the schoolyard.

Monitoring a chat room is one thing, enticing and teasing perverts is a whole other game, which can end in ways one might not expect.

Why can't this be left to the professionals, people who have been trained in dealing with these types?

Also, how many real life kids do get out of the house and walk to the museum because some guy on the internet asked them to? It seems like this "epidemic" may be artificially inflated by the media and the vigilantes.
posted by skallas at 3:09 AM on August 26, 2003


One thing is certain: this website is an excellent primer for teaching newbie pedophiles the tricks of the trade, for both getting the info they need about kids as well as how to spot adult impersonators.

Good show, PJ! You fucking tards.
posted by mischief at 5:05 AM on August 26, 2003


Paraphilias on parade! Looks like an outlet for those kinky men & women that like pretending to be children.
posted by TuffAustin at 5:09 AM on August 26, 2003


Skallas: These people were already "riled up" before they ran into these chat loggers. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been hanging out in chatrooms trolling for jailbait.

As for your question, here's one site claiming 800 children were abducted by people who met them on the Internet in 1998.

My presumption is that the problem is pretty widespread. I don't know that this chat log site makes much difference, but I'm not shedding a tear for any of its targets.
posted by rcade at 5:20 AM on August 26, 2003


Fun with Vigilantism.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:25 AM on August 26, 2003


rcade, that "missing" thing is *commercial* crapola

As for widespread, I've already quoted this within the last week, but I'll quote it again

"among rape victims less than 12 years of age, 90% of the children *knew the offender*, according to police-recorded incident data and frequently, *the person who sexually molests a child is also a child*."

Unlike the 800 figure, these guys come with sources. Here is one more from the link above:

Nine in 10 Americans polled regard child abuse as a serious problem, yet only 1 in 3 reported abuse when
confronted with an actual situation.


And this last one is what Blue Stone and others are talking about. The thing with vigilantism is that it is generally safe to assume that vigilantes are clueless. Better leave to the non-hysterical professionals.
posted by magullo at 5:45 AM on August 26, 2003


rcade - sorry for the deja-vu. I did not realize that I had used that quote in a previous thread ... responding to *you*
posted by magullo at 5:49 AM on August 26, 2003


rcade -

Those numbers make it astonishingly rare. Let's do the math...
[all numbers courtesy of the the CIA World Factbook, 2003 Ed.]

US Population: 290,342,554 (July 2003 est.);
0-14 years: 20.9% (60,681,594)

Canadian Population: 32,207,113 (July 2003 est.);
0-14 years: 18.5% (5,958,316)

We'll leave Mexico out of this - less than 4% of their population has access to the internet.

So, total population of children for Canada and the US 66,639,910. Assume there's been an increase in abductions (no evidence for it, but I don't want to be accused of understating the problem) and round up to an even 1,000.

This means that the incidence of this kind of event is one in every 66,640 children. While these kinds of things are creepy, they don't seem to me to be terribly "widespread".
posted by Irontom at 6:10 AM on August 26, 2003


I'm not sure what the point of this site is. a reference for kids (is the significantly older and randy stranger I've just met a known pervo?) or just a place to embarass people into getting a new screen name? I'm with skallas, leave this to the professionals.
posted by mcsweetie at 6:14 AM on August 26, 2003


Reminds me of baiting.org.
posted by shoepal at 6:19 AM on August 26, 2003


here's one site claiming 800 children were abducted

No doubt by all those Satanists who were running ritual abuse daycare centers in the 80s.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:22 AM on August 26, 2003 [1 favorite]


mcs: I have been wondering about that myself. It's sort of a "look what we can do" vanity site.

The chitown script reads like an annotated "Pedophiles for Dummies":

"does ur sister like the cat? ( This is classic pervert strategy - he is digging for information on how many family members are around to assess his risk )"

"u miss having a sis or brother? ( And this is classic wannabe pedophile information digging - he is looking for a child who is isolated and likely to be in need of attention. That need is what he wants to exploit )"

"wheres mom now? ( Again, how much can he get away with? )"

The only questions left out are: "Do you have a dog?" and "Do your parents leave a key under the mat?"
posted by mischief at 6:23 AM on August 26, 2003


Yeah. So how hard would it be to write your own pederas nabbing chat log and post the phone numbers of an ex, or your boss? Come on. People that are calling these numbers and harassing these people have no way of knowing if the people answering these numbers are the people on some offbeat websites chat log.

This site is a bad idea. Even if the intentions are good.
posted by einer at 6:34 AM on August 26, 2003


Is is just me or do these guys seem to relish their end a little too much? They say things like "Here I am just stringing him along trying for a face picture" but they seem to get into it a little much.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:35 AM on August 26, 2003


You can minimize any problem by comparing it to the world population, Irontom.

I agree that the 800 number is probably dubious -- there's lots of dodgy statistics being offered in the name of protecting children -- but if you have under-aged female relatives who use the Internet, ask them about their experiences in chat rooms.
posted by rcade at 6:57 AM on August 26, 2003


I didnt compare it to the world's population, I compared it to the number of children in north america (minus mexico) because that's what they claimed to be reporting: number of children abducted as a result of internet encounters in North America in a given year. I made an apples to apples comparison in an attempt to show the actual scope of the problem.
posted by Irontom at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2003


I'm with einer on this one - the site is probably a hoax.

And if it isn't, it's still a silly idea.
posted by spazzm at 8:01 AM on August 26, 2003


I agree, spartacus...the comments just on the home page would indicate that the thrill they get out of this is not unlike that gained by some pedophile finding a willing target. Given that, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the reported content is fake in order to make it sound juicier, or even to smear some guy because he pissed somebody off in chat. As with any form of vigilante justice, there is no form of systemic protection for those falsely accused.

That said, probably the best way to get rid of a site like this is to post loads of bogus data about nonexistent predators.
posted by troybob at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2003


All I can say is... Ick. I showered an hour ago, but now I feel like I need another one...

(The people running that site are thisClose to being as sick as the people they entrap. Definitely makes me wonder what's up with them because it reminds me of nothing so much as listening to the kind of crazed rhetoric you'll see from "ex-gay ministry" members or former cigarette smokers...)
posted by JollyWanker at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2003


Irontom: If the 800 children figure were true, would you characterize it as a problem or something that's not worthy of attention because the population of North America indicates that for every abducted Internet kid we still have 66,639 around? I don't think your calculator approach is particularly persuasive.

Considering all the momentum here for apathy -- this isn't widespread, let the professionals handle it, those chat loggers are the real sicko, and so on -- you'd think that sexual predators were simply a fictional media-created bogeyman. And yet I can find a dozen of them released from prison and living in my ZIP code, most of whom were convicted of crimes involving children.

I can't say I support the reckless approach being taken by the publishers of Perverted Justice or that woman in Colorado whose chat-room vigilantism has made her a de-facto agent of the police, but there's often something to be said for provocateurs who call attention to a problem through extreme means.

At the very least, any parent who reads that site is going to recognize that some of Suzie's AOL chat room buddies might not be the kind of people you'd be caught dead letting your kid hang out with.
posted by rcade at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2003


Considering all the momentum here for apathy

"absence of hysteria" I think you mean.
posted by goethean at 9:27 AM on August 26, 2003 [1 favorite]


You know, whenever the guys got a particularly nasty scammer over at mmfhoh.org, the scammer would typically ask them why they weren't going after all the pornographers and pedophiles. Well, now maybe they've got some ammunition.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:28 AM on August 26, 2003


The easiest thing in the world is to come up with reasons to do nothing, goethean.

A story from CNN today reminded me of this discussion: 60.68 million American kids did not die in hot cars this year.
posted by rcade at 9:50 AM on August 26, 2003


And yet I can find a dozen of them released from prison and living in my ZIP code, most of whom were convicted of crimes involving children.

Yet, unless you have some reason to believe one or more were released in error or have committed a crime since being released, what good does that knowledge do you, other than to make your community even more hysterical? Patriot notwithstanding, this is still America. They have been convicted, yes, but they've served their sentence and have been released. How would entrapping them or anyone else in an Internet chatroom serve anything other than to prop up a sense of worth that's little fueled by little more than vigilantism?
posted by JollyWanker at 10:21 AM on August 26, 2003


I see what you're saying rcade, but this is a site where I could go and say that some guy going by the handle 'rcade' tried to hit me up because he thought I was 12. And I could make up an entire conversation to go with the accusation. And I could post your picture. And I could make my accusation seem realistic by correlating it with data you have made available about yourself on the web. And then I could post a link on MetaFilter warning everyone about what a perv you are.

Not that I'd do that to such a nice guy.
posted by troybob at 10:21 AM on August 26, 2003


I hate having to say this every time I have this conversation with people, but here goes:

Rape, murder and kidnapping are all horrible crimes. The horror increases exponentially when these crimes involve children. Every time something like this happens, some poor family suffers beyond my capacity to imagine. They take years to heal, if they ever heal at all.

However, these truths do nothing to change the numbers. This is not a widespread problem, nor is it a common event. I refuse to see boogeymen where they are not, and people then tell me I'm apathetic. It's the kind of thing that somebody's gonna call Child Protective Services on me for someday:

"That man hasn't taught his children to distrust everyone he isn't related to by blood!! Arrest the negligent, apathetic bastard!!"
posted by Irontom at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2003


While this is all disturbing on many levels, anyone convicted of a virtual crime in the chatrooms could plead fantasy and get away with it, because we have no idea if anyone believes this is real, so it's down to one person's word against another. If these chatroom freaks do try and meet people in public, then you're into a gray area that is closer to a crime, but like Patrick Naughton, they can still claim they were playing along on what they assumed was a game.

The thing that gets me is that it is not easy to find these "daddy-daughter" and "boytoy" rooms if you were 13 years old. I'm guessing that actual kids don't just wander aimlessly into these places, so I wonder if the participants assume the "kids" that do are other members playing around. The logs read as if every "kid" was there and didn't know how or why they got there, and for some reason they don't leave when they find out they are the only child there (how many kids like to hang out with a dozen people in their 40s instead of other kids?). For a real world equivalent, these specialized chat rooms would be like going into the red light district into your city, then finding a specific crackhouse, then going up to the fifth floor, and the second door on the right. How many kids accidentally wander into situations like that?

These pedophiles caught online always plead the fantasy defense, and it's not going to be easy to win cases against that. There's also the danger that although we are dealing with one of the worst possible crimes, if we go too far we will be busting people for thoughtcrimes, since they sounded like they wanted to actually commit crimes.
posted by mathowie at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2003


Child abuse is a terrible thing.   Most is non-sexual and commited by a close relative. It's a shame that a campaign to stop child abuse in all its forms doesn't get the support that a more newsworthy campaign gets. Things may be better in the US, but somehow I doubt it.

Ineffective, simplistic solutions seem to be what people want.
posted by daveg at 10:54 AM on August 26, 2003


matt - perfect summation of what I've been wondering about. The (impossible) statistics that we need to hear more about are the actual number of children who end up on strange, open boards like this.

I find it difficult to venture an opinion on this, since I don't have a child, but I would have to warn them about these people (both online and off) in fairly explicit terms, and then I guess I would be checking the history cache every now and then to see what is going on, but the idea of being an internet warden to my child-prisoner just doesn't seem right, or even possible to me. (At least I know how I would have reacted under similar conditions, and it's not a good reaction.)
posted by taz at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2003


Irontom: However, these truths do nothing to change the numbers. This is not a widespread problem, nor is it a common event.

There were 260,000 rapes in the U.S. in 2000, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics, and yet that's another crime you put in the group of things that are "not a widespread problem" and not "a common event" -- something to be worried about only by those of us who teach our kids to distrust everyone.

I can understand your desire not to overexaggerate risks, but you've taken it to the other extreme. I wonder what kind of numbers would have to be reported before you might acknowledge something to be a problem.

Would you encourage your college-bound daughter to attend a freshmen orientation session about rape and tell her to avoid situations where she's alone in desolate parts of the campus or her apartment complex?
posted by rcade at 11:39 AM on August 26, 2003


How do they make sure that the people they're busting aren't minors posing as adults? That's the only thorny part I see in the enterprise.

Otherwise, brilliant idea. I've been IM'ing for years pretending to be a hopeful Malaysian mail-order bride, but I think I've found a new direction.
posted by basilwhite at 11:40 AM on August 26, 2003


rcade -

I didnt include rape (as a general crime) in the list of things that don't rise to the level of "widespread problem" or "common event", I was talking about child abduction and rape. I'm sorry if my grammar was unclear.

However, your number illustrates my point nicely. It would take 260 years for the number of north american children abducted by people them met online to equal the number of women raped in this country in one year. To me, this shows exactly which of the two crimes should get the lion's share of attention drawn from limited resources.

Another way to look at this subject is this: the Justice Dept estimates there are about 354,100 successful abductions of children by family members every year in the US. That means that 354 kids are abducted by family members for each kid that gets abducted by a stranger they met online. Which of these events do you think is the bigger problem?

Finally, the topic at hand is children. 1st year college students do not fit that category.
posted by Irontom at 12:25 PM on August 26, 2003


Irontom, just concede the point to rcade that although not widespread, this problem is serious enough that it's worth sitting down to talk to your kids about the dangers of this somewhat-rare crime.

Crimes against children get a lot of attention because the potential for harm is so great, possibly greater than any other; you mess up a kid and you often ruin someone's life and they often perpetuate the crime they suffered.
posted by mathowie at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2003


I got fired for reading this thread today. Meta thread.
posted by beth at 2:12 PM on August 26, 2003


As stated above, I think these guys are having a little too much fun pretending to be little girls.

The larger problem of course is that it is almost always a bad idea to let home grown vigilantes run rampant entraping and otherwise yelling "witch!" without any oversight.
posted by soulhuntre at 3:07 PM on August 26, 2003


...but the idea of being an internet warden to my child-prisoner just doesn't seem right, or even possible to me.

Why not? I don't understand the idea that we can give children all these elements of technology exposing them to the world at large--the Internet, cell phones, text messaging--and then expect that the rest of the world should change to accommodate their innocence. Outside of ill-conceived ideas like the posted site, anything we can do to help children out is fine by me, but not as a replacement for parental supervision. Knowing what I was like as a teen (horny and gay in the bible belt), if I had a child who could not grasp such dangers, or whose Internet use I could not supervise, then my child would have no Internet access at all.
posted by troybob at 3:26 PM on August 26, 2003


mathowie, while I don't disagree with what you say, you are perhaps underestimating the ability of children to find trouble.

taz, "being an internet warden to my child-prisoner" does not sit right with me either but, as a parent, you do what you have to do to protect your kids and hope they don't catch you at it. The primary protection against this sort of thing is prevention and education of course, but pre-teens and teenagers are very confused people at the best of times and are easily led either by adults or by other children.

While I am a little leery about the amount of fun these people seem to have exposing people, anything that makes the scum who prey on our children a bit more hesitant to approach has some merit. I applaud the restraint of this guy when someone came to his door expecting a tryst with a young girl. I suspect that I would not be quite so restrained.
posted by dg at 4:16 PM on August 26, 2003


vigilantism
posted by kv at 4:58 PM on August 26, 2003


They posted a new FAQ page to answer some things seen here.

This probably should go on the MeTa thread, but that really sucks Beth. I have been fired for ludicrous reasons once in my life, and immediatly got a job I love and still have. It can work out well.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 5:58 PM on August 26, 2003


The Sex Offender as Scapegoat: Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response
posted by y2karl at 6:03 PM on August 26, 2003


I see their mefi special faq makes no mention of my contention that they are providing training materials to future stalkers. ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:16 PM on August 26, 2003


They posted a new FAQ page to answer some things seen here.

That's a great addition to their site and clears up my main problem with the site -- I had no idea they were patrolling localized general chat rooms. Shit, I just gained a ton of respect for them going after people preying on local youngsters.
posted by mathowie at 11:54 PM on August 26, 2003


I'm guessing that actual kids don't just wander aimlessly into these places, so I wonder if the participants assume the "kids" that do are other members playing around.

I've worked with paedophiles on occasions. I knew two or three who, while convicted of other crimes against children, had also been involved in Internet chat rooms. This is 3-4 years ago, so we're not talking IM here but still, chat was around. From what they said, they were desperate to think that the person on the other end of the chat was a real child. The thought may have crossed their mind that it was someone playing a role, but their belief - no doubt emboldened by the eagerness with which they wanted it to be true - was that the respondee was a real child. None of the men I talked to about this had ever met someone through the Internet, just chatted - or at least, none admitted to it.
posted by humuhumu at 12:48 AM on August 27, 2003


Interesting FAQ there.

I am still uneasy about the leading-on part as per my earlier post.

Also, overall, I wish people would take a more rational look at the whole situation. It is truely horrible that this happens, and obviously 0 would be a much better number than 800.

However, I think the way the whole child safety online thing is approached makes creates more problems than it solves. Parents become reactionary, and children become more secretive about their activities - evidenced by the fact so many of PJ's 'children' say things along the lines of "you won't get me in trouble will you?"

Also, what exactly is it that makes it so wrong to make sexual approaches to a person under 14 (Canada), 16 (Australia, Many US States) or 17, or 18, or 21? Yeah, it's 'just wrong' at some point, but I can't say really what that person. At 14, I reckon I could have made an informed consent, and if I chose for that to be with an older person, then I am just as at fault as them.

I've been writing this for a long time, and I am started to sound like a paedophile apoligist - I am not. The point is that I find it hard for some person or group of people to make these calls on people they only know through a brief online conversation (and who doesn't play along with just about anything there?)

I will stop now.
posted by sycophant at 5:08 AM on August 27, 2003


Also, what exactly is it that makes it so wrong to make sexual approaches to a person under 14 (Canada), 16 (Australia, Many US States) or 17, or 18, or 21?

A belief that there's an age below which a person lacks the judgment to make sound decisions on their own behalf. Minors are prevented from entering into legal contracts on the same basis.
posted by rcade at 5:57 AM on August 27, 2003


I wish everyone could just receive a free copy of the Brass Eye Special on tape and watch it.
posted by wackybrit at 12:39 PM on August 27, 2003


Rcade:
A belief that there's an age below which a person lacks the judgment to make sound decisions on their own behalf.

Yes, obviously, but is Canada wrong saying 14? Or Most of the world in 16? Or is 18 the right number - that's an often quoted one.

The site is making a moral judgement, not a legal one. Would you be as supportive of a 'poof-justice' website where people pretended to be adult men looking for sexual encounters with other men - and targeted men in regional chatrooms in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansa, or any of the other states where homosexual intercourse is still illegal?

Minors are prevented from entering into legal contracts on the same basis.

There are many exclusions and ways of avoiding those rules generally - if both are willing to come to an agreement.

Wackybrit:
I wish everyone could just receive a free copy of the Brass Eye Special on tape and watch it.

I have a very high quality DivX of that special, it is absolutely brilliant. I sometimes quote it randomly, which can result in some very confused looks.

A Roboplegic Wrongcock.
posted by sycophant at 1:43 PM on August 27, 2003


"I wish everyone could just receive a free copy of the Brass Eye Special on tape and watch it."

Best call yet on this thread.
posted by arha at 10:23 AM on August 28, 2003


"I wish everyone could just receive a free copy of the Brass Eye Special on tape and watch it."

Best call yet on this thread.


*rolls eyes*

Given the choice between hysterics and doing nothing else, I'll choose hysterics.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:44 AM on August 29, 2003


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