More than 1,000 men, including 54 Canadians, were identified as alleged online sex predators in a sting operation that used a virtual 10-year-old Filipino girl to lure them.
"Sweetie," an avatar operated by Netherlands-based child-rights organization Terre des Hommes, quickly attracted more than 20,000 chat room users offering to pay for webcam sex performances — a form of child exploitation the group says is "largely unknown but quickly spreading."
It's mostly men from rich countries approaching children from poor and developing countries.
"We have men who are going online, finding these girls, virtually raping them and then turn off their computer and then go to work as if nothing happened," one researcher said on the YouTube video explaining the operation.
Researchers gathered information about the users as they interacted with the virtual girl and handed the data and video footage over to Interpol Monday.
"The biggest problem is that the police don't take action until child victims file reports, but children almost never report these crimes. These children are usually forced to do this by adults or by extreme poverty," spokesman Hans Guyt said in a statement.
The group launched a petition on Avaaz.org to pressure governments to be more proactive in their investigations of webcam child sex tourism, which Terre des Hommes says is "as devastating" to the victims as direct sexual abuse.
The organization said it used only public records to identify the men and won't release their names to the public.