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Thursday, July 17, 2003
The perils of the chatroom

The recent events involving the disappearance of a 12 year-old girl from Manchester with a thirty-one year-old American, after an extended internet encounter, have reawakened calls for the active policing of chatrooms. For example,
Sting operations have been carried out in Britain but are relatively rare. Four years ago Kenneth Lockley, 28, of Derby, went online seeking an underage sexual encounter. The person who responded was a police officer and Lockley was jailed for 18 months.
Read the whole piece here.

Some six years ago, just after having acquired my first (this) computer, with a poor understanding of chatrooms ['The Poor Person's Weblog' - © Josh], I found myself lurking, waiting to meet a friend by arrangement. With very little knowledge at the time - for example, I didn't know about the creation of private rooms - I was easy prey to any of these young people who had mastered the medium.

I found myself chatting to a nosy girl of fourteen. Of course, I lied about my age: I told her I was 99. She was very persistent in her questioning so I was a little concerned that I should, perhaps, have told her my real age: 166. Like most of the chatters I encountered, her command of English and spelling was appalling: she clearly couldn't spell either 'Studebaker' or 'Siobhan'. Worse still was the banality of her conversation. She quizzed me relentlessly about my sex life and I had to work quickly to think of appropriate, not necessarily imaginary, replies. I wonder in retrospect what PC Plod would have made of the exchange.

Despite the fact that the encounter never mentioned the possibility of a meeting, I could have been in some danger. I suspect that Plod would have sided with the girl on the grounds that the idea of old people having sexual relationships was disgusting enough to be a criminal offence. I do not think he would have been motivated to intervene in the illegal process of grooming naive geriatrics.

The article concludes
'It would be [a deterrent if] every paedophile who went on the internet believed they were just as likely to meet a policeman as a 12-year-old girl.'
Yeah and what about the sexual mugging of 166 year-old males by precocious fourteen year-olds? How you gonna stop that?

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