The legal system is in place to deal with people who have committed or actually planned to commit offences. However, in recent years, legal authorities have taken it upon themselves to set people up and lure them into committing certain offences so that those people can be convicted. For instance, police often disguise themselves as street prostitutes and act as bait so that men who perceive them to be prostitutes and ask them for sex are arrested. This is blatant entrapment and extremely unjust.
Police do exactly the same thing when they hide with their speed guns behind bushes and billboards on roads and book motorists for speeding. If they truly wanted to stop motorists from speeding, all they would have to do would be to park on the sides of roads with their lights flashing and no motorist in his right mind would exceed the speed limit. But the police don't do that. They prefer to hide and entrap motorists, obviously to punish them by inflicting fines and also raising revenue for the government, instead of warning motorists to drive safely by showing their presence.
The advent of the Internet has introduced all sorts of opportunities for unsavoury and criminal activity. There are literally millions of scams being perpetrated using the Internet, identity theft is prevalent, credit card crime is horrendous and there seems to be no end to the inventiveness of crooks to use the Internet to fleece unwary people.
But there is one aspect to the Internet that is very alarming and that is the entrapment and subsequent conviction of people who have not committed actual and real offences, but who have been lured into unsavoury activities by undercover police posing as others.
Regarding this issue, it must be firmly stated that paedophilia is one of the most abhorrent crimes of all, there is no cure for child molesters and the death penalty is probably the only way to deal with them. Having said that, there is also no excuse for entrapping anybody for committing what could only be described as a thought crime.
There are frequent reports in the media about men being arrested for trying to "groom" kids for sex, either by pretending to be kids themselves, or offering enticements to those kids to either perform sexually explicit acts on web cameras or to meet with those men for the purpose of sex. This is disgusting and any person found committing this crime should be dealt with in the harshest of ways.
But what if that person merely THOUGHT he was grooming a kid for sex in an Internet chatroom, but he was not doing that at all? What if that person was not talking to a kid at all, but was talking to an adult police officer? Is it a crime to engage in sexually explicit talk with an adult police officer, even if you think that you are talking with a kid? Apparently this thought crime is an actual offence, so even if the man stated that he believed that he was talking to an adult posing as a kid, that man can be charged as if he was actually talking to a kid.
In July 2013, it was announced that artificial intelligence software was developed to entice the attention of paedophiles lurking in online chatrooms frequented by children. Spanish researchers created the software named Negobot, which convincingly poses as a 14-year-old girl in an effort to police social networks. The Basque Country police force has shown interest in adopting the robot predator detector.
The project was initiated by the University of Deusto amid concerns about the growing online presence of vulnerable children and the limited success of more traditional means of tracking down offenders. Known as a "conversational agent", the software uses a process known as game theory to simulate the behaviour of a young girl. It even remembers what has been discussed previously and when, in order to convince suspects that "she" is real.
Negobot uses deliberate typographical errors, childish contractions and deliberate language errors to enhance the believability of its 14-year-old "Lolita" persona. "Chatbots tend to be very predictable," Carlos Laorden, researcher at DeustoTech said. "Their behaviour and interest in a conversation are flat, which is a problem when attempting to detect untrustworthy targets like paedophiles. We have managed to produce a bot that varies its behaviour over time and the course of the conversation."
Negobot starts out as a fairly passive and neutral participant in general online chatter on a forum where a predator is suspected to be lurking. Depending on the grooming techniques being applied by the predator, the software will choose tactics, such as appearing offended or insistent, in order to attract attention. If the suspect attempts to get personal information from Negobot, the robot will attempt to find out more about them.
The use of a piece of software such as Negobot to entrap people into committing offences is an utter disgrace. Of course paedophiles are the scum of the earth and should be eradicated, however it is one thing to catch a child molester preying on real kids and another thing to dangle bait and try and lure people into doing something that they may not normally even consider.
The other aspect is that a paedophile who is engaged by this sort of baiting can defend his actions by showing that he was not grooming or chatting up a 14-year-old kid, but he was talking to a piece of software. The intent of paedophilia might have been on his mind, but is it a crime to talk dirty to software? Well some jurisdictions might actually consider that chatting up a computer for sex might be a crime, but anybody with a modicum of logic can see that using a computer to entice people like this is entrapment without justification.
On 07 July 2011, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter was convicted of having unlawful contact with a minor, after being nabbed in an on-line sex sting. He exchanged explicit messages in an Internet chatroom with a detective posing as a 15-year-old girl and masturbated, even after the undercover officer stressed during the chat that he was a minor. A jury in the US state of Pennsylvania found Ritter guilty on six counts. Ritter took the witness stand in his own defence yesterday and said he believed the person he met in a Yahoo chatroom on 07 February 2009 was an adult acting out her own fantasy.
Nobody could deny that Ritter was an idiot for going on-line and doing this. But the disturbing aspect of this case is that whether Ritter thought he was talking to a minor or an adult is not really the issue. The fact is that Ritter was actually - and this is the critical word "ACTUALLY" - talking to an adult. Whether that adult was pretending to be a kid was beside the point. Ritter wasn't exchanging explicit messages with a kid, no matter that he may have thought he was doing so. In actual fact he was talking to an adult, therefore he was not dealing with a kid at any point of time.
In other words, Ritter was convicted of a thought crime. He didn't groom a kid for sex or exchange explicit messages with a kid - he did so with an adult pretending to be a kid. So where's the crime? Ritter didn't commit paedophilia, even if he thought he was engaging in it. In fact Ritter stated that he believed that the person he spoke to in that Yahoo chatroom was an adult all the time, yet he was convicted of THINKING that he was dealing with a kid, no matter what he really thought.
There is absolutely no doubt that Scott Ritter was entrapped by a deliberate sting, however he could have avoided it completely by a very simple procedure. Ritter claimed in his defence that he believed that the person with whom he exchanged those explicit messages was indeed an adult, however he had no hard evidence of this. And if there is one thing that is guaranteed, it is that one piece of hard evidence beats any amount of oral testimony.
What Ritter should have done was to log each chatroom conversation, which is easy to do. Most chatrooms and Instant Messenger services allow users to do this. Then Ritter should have made a disclaimer to every person he spoke to in those chatrooms that purported to be a child. For instance, a conversation between an adult male and an person such as an undercover police officer purporting to be a 13 year old female should proceed like this.
No normal person would condone on-line acts of paedophilia because they are disgustingly abhorrent crimes. However, police baiting people by pretending to be kids is just as disgusting, because the people who they entrap by these methods have not actually committed any real crimes against kids.
If police want to deal with on-line paedophilia, they should encourage all parents to monitor the chatroom activities of their children and report any attempts by real paedophiles to groom their kids. Then police can monitor and log the actual attempts and there will be no question as to the victim being a kid, not an adult pretending to be a kid for the purpose of setting a trap.
If a person fantasises about robbing a bank and even discusses his fantasy with others, he cannot be arrested and charged with robbing a bank. He has to actually either rob the bank or physically conspire to rob it. Many stupid men fantasise about raping women and discuss this with their friends, but of course they cannot be charged and convicted of raping women merely by talking about it.
However, men can be charged and convicted of engaging in sexually explicit chat or grooming an adult pretending to be a child on-line, even when no child is involved. Of course those men are abhorrent paedophiles that need to be dealt with in the strongest manner if they try to groom real kids, but if it turns out that they were grooming adults who were posing as kids, then this should not be a crime, merely because they were not grooming kids at all. What they were committing could be only described as thought crimes and nothing else.
People are entitled to have any thoughts they like, even of the worst sort. People are even entitled to articulate their thoughts, no matter how abhorrent they may be,. However, people should only be charged and convicted of crimes that they actually commit, not for thoughts in their minds about crimes or stupid things they say. Men who engage in sexually explicit conversations in chatrooms to adults pretending to be children are not talking to children at all, therefore there is no crime. Acts of entrapment and luring otherwise honest people into committing crimes, even thought crimes, have to be stopped.
It is understandable that legal authorities have to do something about paedophiles operating on-line, but the law should only deal with actual crimes. It is ludicrous that a person such as Scott Ritter can be convicted of engaging in sexually explicit messages with a child when he did not do so and this is why entrapment procedures are so blatantly unfair and need to be abolished.