A 37-year-old mom named "Sloane Ryan" documented her experience as an 11-year-old girl on social media — and the outcome was highly disturbing.
What are the details?
In a lengthy — and graphic — post shared on Medium, Ryan recounts her experience posing as 11-year-old "Bailey," an innocent and fresh-faced adolescent at the center of online sex abuse and grooming.
Ryan, who is physically and digitally manipulated to look like an 11-year-old girl, works with "Brian" of Bark, which is an artificial intelligence company leading a research project on the dangers of social media and its impact on adolescents.
Ryan writes, "Bark uses AI to alert parents and schools when children are experiencing issues like cyberbullying, depression, threats of violence — or in this case, targeting by sexual predators." Bark also works with law enforcement to catch said alleged predators.
The program monitors more than 4 million children and analyzes more than 20 million interactions per day.
"Less than a year ago, Brian and I sat in a meeting where we wrestled with how exactly to talk to parents about online grooming," Ryan writes. "Back when Bark was a much smaller team, we encountered a particularly harrowing case of an online predator abusing a girl in middle school. She was only 12 years old, and this man was grooming her through her school email account, coercing her to send videos of herself performing sexual acts. We knew people like him were out there, but it floored us to see how quickly and deftly he was able to manipulate this child."
Ryan reveals that the program alerted the FBI to at least 99 child predators. The alarming number has risen to worse levels in 2019 — with more than 300 reports to the FBI and counting.
Ryan writes, "I upload the photo to Instagram — a generic, innocuous selfie of Bailey with an ear-to-ear smile — and caption it."
The simple caption reads, "v excitedd to see my friends this weekend at carly's party! Ilysm!!"
What happens after a child posts a photo?
Ryan says that adults will respond to such a post "unnervingly fast."
"At the beginning of the week, on the very first night as Bailey, two new messages came in under a minute after publishing a photo," Ryan reveals. "We sat mouths agape as the numbers pinged up on the screen — 2, 3, 7, 15 messages from adult men over the course of two hours. Half of them could be charged with transfer of obscene content to a minor."
Here are some of the more disturbing interactions between "Bailey" and adults:
- "Hi! I was just wondering how long you've been a model for? ... If not, you should be a model. You're so PRETTY."
- "You are a very beautiful girl. ... I love your pictures on here. Does your mom and dad let you have a boyfriend yet?"
- "Since we are together, are you ready to send sexy pictures to each other?"
You can read more disturbing interactions here.
Ryan writes that the majority of men send explicit, graphic nude photos and videos to the 11-year-old girl within minutes.
"By the end of two-and-a-half hours, I've had seven video calls, ignored another two dozen of them, text-chatted with 17 men (some who had messaged her before, gearing back up in hopes for more interaction), and seen the genitalia of 11 of those," Ryan reveals. "I've also fielded (and subsequently denied) multiple requests for above-the-waist nudity (in spite of being clear that Bailey's breasts have not yet developed) and below-the-waist nudity."
Ryan adds that throughout the experiment, "over 52 men reached out to an 11-year-old girl."
"It's the end of the night," she writes, "but every single conversation and photo still needs to be sorted, organized, and packaged to send to our law enforcement contacts. Any instance of child sexual abuse material is sent to NCMEC, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children."
Ryan says that the "brutal reality" is that a child sex predator "doesn't have to be in the same room, building, or even country to abuse a child," but still subjects children to "psychological and sexual abuse."
"Knowing the pervasiveness of predation on the internet isn't a burden," she concludes. "Not really. It's a gift. One that helps us turn the tables on abusers. Our work has resulted in arrests of people who have shown the propensity and willingness to harm children. Technology has changed and so too have the methods by which predators find, communicate with, and harm children. If they can use technology to abuse children, we can use the same technology to help stop their crimes."