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Guijt explained: ‘Five years ago we saw that in brothels in the Philippines there were suddenly fewer children involved in prostitution.
At first it seemed to be a positive development, but we discovered that a lot of children were being forced into webcam sex, in many cases even from their own homes.
The images recorded show men masturbating during the chats.
As Terre des Hommes does not have any personal information about these webcam users, the organisation refers to child abusers rather than paedophiles or paedosexuals.
In most countries, webcam sex with an under-age girl is prohibited.
But it is much more difficult to prove abuse if the person is fictitious.
Sweetie is an initiative of Terre des Hommes the Netherlands.
Why has combating online webcam sex become so important?
The chatbot could not approach chat room users itself and could not encourage online sex if the other person was not solliciting it.
The ‘Sweetie’ study shows the size and nature of webcam child sex tourism worldwide.
Terre des Hommes will publish a report on the results of the study at the end of July 2016.
In most cases, Sweetie was the trigger for a further search of the houses of the suspects and men were arrested on the grounds of possession of child pornography. Using chatbots, many more chat rooms can be monitored and more (potential) offenders can be deterred.
There is no complete overview of the arrests because it is not standard practice for the national police authorities to report back to the researchers.